Team Notes week 7 2019
NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS AND OTHER GOOD STUFF
Directly from the desk of FlashUpdate Editor Bob Harris. The good; the bad; and yes. ... Even the Bears. There is no better way to jump start your weekend than browsing these always educational -- often irreverent -- team-by-team, Fantasy-specific offerings. ...
Access specific teams by clicking on a team name in the schedule appearing directly to your left or by clicking on a helmet below; return to the helmets by hitting the link labeled "Menu" following each teams notes. ...
Arizona CardinalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 15 October 2019
The Cardinals won at home for the first time since last Oct. 28.
After showing flashes during the season's first five games, Arizona's offense put together the complete performance it expected after bringing in head coach Kliff Kingsbury and Murray during the offseason.
The Cardinals were productive on offense in the first half and this time had some success in the red zone, which was a problem in previous games. Chase Edmonds scored on a 2-yard pass from Kyler Murray and Davis Johnson ran for a 1-yard score as Arizona built a 20-10 halftime lead.
Murray showed off his arm strength and touch on a few big plays, including a 58-yard pass over the middle to Damiere Byrd and a 38-yard completion to Trent Sherfield down the left sideline.
Better still, the Cardinals scored on the first five possessions Sunday, the first game in which they had done that since a 2009 road game in Chicago on Nov. 8. In that game, Kurt Warner was at the top of his game (even without an inactive Anquan Boldin). After all the offensive struggles of 2018, it was a milestone to mark.
So Kingsbury had to be happy, right?
His team had won a second straight game, and his offense looked pretty potent again. But Kingsbury always sounds cautious. He said his offense can be better. And when he was asked if the quick-strike, four-play scoring drive in the second quarter -- Johnson 17-yard run, a 30-yard Johnson catch-n-run, a 31-yard Edmonds catch-n-run, and a 1-yard Johnson TD run -- was the "epitome" of what his offense is, Kingsbury wasn't biting.
"The epitome is just scoring enough points to win," Kingsbury said. "Whatever it takes to win the game, that's who we want to be."
The Cardinals are using lots of receivers -- nine on Sunday. They have found a good role for both Edmonds and Johnson out of the backfield. There are so many looks -- Sunday there was a flea-flicker, a wildcat snap to Pharoh Cooper, motions and misdirections -- that it's going to be tough for defenses to get a bead on what the Cardinals want to do when they are going well.
It's not clear what can be done about fixing the defense at this point, with Patrick Peterson coming back or not, given the time of season. It has not been good, not nearly enough. That's why the offense is so important.
But it's nice to have someone like Murray who can race 5 yards for a crucial first down on the last possession.
Murray finished with 32 rushing yards on 11 carries, two fewer than the team-high 34 by both Johnson and Edmonds. He had two first downs and a run for 14 yards.
His ability to scramble, Sherfield said, frees up and creates plays out of dire situations.
For what it's worth, Murray is the first NFL quarterback to have at least 20 completions in his first six career games.
Murray was not sacked Sunday. Considering the kid was on pace to be sacked 80 times after four games, that's significant. He was only sacked once last week too. The offensive line is doing its job, and Murray is being smart.
Murray also has yet to fumble this season (not just not lose a fumble, but fumble period) and has thrown just four interceptions. He takes care of the ball.
On Tuesday, Murray was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week.
More generally speaking, Kingsbury has helped spark a significant turnaround in his first six games, taking a 2018 offense that was historically unproductive -- ranked third-worst since 1986 by Football Outsiders -- and turning it into the makings of a potent group.
The Cardinals are averaging 8.2 more points per game this season and have gone from last to 10th in total offense. Even after stripping out the bump in cumulative numbers based on tempo, the offense has nearly doubled its points per drive (1.09 to 1.97) from 2018 and improved from last in yards per play (4.3) to 15th (5.6).
"I've always just had that expectation, if we execute and I can call good plays, that we're going to be successful," Kingsbury said. "When I got here, people acted like I had never called plays before, never coached football before. I have a feel for the game and what I think we can do."
Kingsbury's scheme has played a pivotal role, as the litany of moving pieces on any particular play has wreaked havoc on defenses.
"We're starting to use a lot of motions and really trick people with our eyes," Edmonds said. "It's been phenomenal so far these past two weeks."
The Cardinals have racked up 60 points and 956 total yards during their two-game winning streak. The big numbers have come against Cincinnati and Atlanta teams with subpar defensive personnel, but nearly everyone looked like the 1985 Bears against the Cardinals' offense a season ago.
"I think just offensively, as a unit, as a group, we're figuring each other out," said Kingsbury, who is often loathe to take credit for offensive success. "We're figuring out what we do well and don't do well. Week to week as a staff, guys are coming up with good concepts and designs, and our players understand how to execute those at a high level."
There were many naysayers when the Cardinals paired Kingsbury and Murray together this offseason. So far, the rookie quarterback has dazzled, and Kingsbury has put the offense in position to succeed.
"It's fun learning from him, just studying the plays," rookie wide receiver Andy Isabella said. "Learning how it all works is pretty cool."
Up next, a win over the Giants on Sunday would get the Cardinals back to .500 and make for a very crowded NFC West that includes San Francisco (5-0), Seattle (5-1) and LA Rams (3-3).
Whatever the case, Arizona is showing why it has potential to grow into a winning team. Learning how to play with a big lead would be nice: The Cardinals coughed up a 14-point lead against the Bengals and a 17-point lead against the Falcons before figuring out ways to win in the final minutes. ...
Other notes of interest. ... His back, Johnson said, felt "great."
Johnson never really got going as a runner against the Falcons but tied Larry Fitzgerald with a team-high six catches and his 68 yards receiving was only one fewer than Fitzgerald's team-high.
Johnson, who only practiced Friday, on a limited basis, remained the main guy even with his injury.
"Same as last week, he was banged up and battled through it and did it again this week," Kingsbury said. "That was the game-saving catch."
Edmonds had five carries for 34 yards and two catches for 33 yards and a score on Sunday, but only had one touch in the second half against the Falcons. Kingsbury said he wasn't aware of that and doesn't want it to happen again.
"We've got to do a better job of getting him the football, because he's been a very impactful player," Kingsbury said.
Edmonds is averaging 6.7 yards per carry this season in 24 attempts as Johnson's backup.
As the Associated Press suggested, the Cardinals' offense is particularly dangerous when both backs are on the field, and Kingsbury is working to make that happen more often. ...
Damiere Byrd had missed two games with a bad hamstring before returning to the field Sunday, and made the longest catch of his career, a perfect 58-yard bomb from Murray. As he neared the goal line, cornerback Isaiah Oliver tackled him, and Byrd -- sensing he was close to the goal line -- reached to put the ball over the line.
Instead, the ball came loose. The official blew the play dead, Byrd said, which is why he didn't immediately go after the ball, but the Falcons picked it up, and Atlanta coach Dan Quinn challenged the play. Eventually, the play stood as down at the Atlanta 1.
Afterward, Murray and Fitzgerald both acknowledged they thought it was a fumble. Kingsbury said he knew it was close. Byrd just said he knew he made a mistake.
"Yeah, next time I'll just hold on to it," Byrd said. "I was trying to cap the play off and I got a little greedy. But it worked out for us. ..."
Kingsbury said he knew late last week that wide receiver Christian Kirk would likely miss a second straight game with a high ankle sprain. His status for Sunday's game against the Giants is up in the air.
"Those high ankles can linger a little bit," Kingsbury said. "He's working through some things. But from what it appeared on the field that day to where he is now, we're still very pleased."
That said, Kirk is still in rehab phase and Kingsbury said the wideout has to be 100 percent to play.
Kingsbury said rookie defensive end Zach Allen (neck) suffered a setback last week, but did not give a timeline for his return.
I'll have more on Kirk via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
And finally. ... As mentioned above, Peterson is heading back to work. The star cornerback is eligible to return from serving his six-game suspension.
Peterson's return will be a welcome sight.
Without him, the Cardinals have leaned on Tramaine Brock (86.6 percent of snaps played) and rookie Byron Murphy, who has missed just four total snaps through six games, per Next Gen Stats. Murphy has been solid in several games including a few fantastic PBUs. As you'd expect from any rookie DB, he's been picked on some as well.
Peterson's return to the fold should slot the defensive secondary into a better position, with the shadow corner able to lock down opponents' top receiving weapon.
QBs: Kyler Murray, Brett Hundley
RBs: Kenyan Drake, David Johnson, Zach Zenner, Alfred Morris, Chase Edmonds
WRs: Christian Kirk, Larry Fitzgerald, KeeSean Johnson, Trent Sherfield, Andy Isabella, Damiere Byrd, Pharoh Cooper
TEs: Charles Clay, Maxx Williams
Atlanta FalconsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 15 October 2019
The Falcons are heading back home from Arizona a 1-5 football team Sunday night after falling 34-33 to the Cardinals.
As the team's official website noted, every loss is tough, but this one was particularly gut-wrenching as kicker Matt Bryant missed a potential game-tying kick with 1:53 remaining. Bryant, who had previously made a ridiculous 382 of 385 (99.2 percent) of his extra-point attempts, understandably took the miss hard, too.
"To miss that kick is no good for anybody," Bryant said. "We've kind of dug ourselves a hole, and you don't want to end it like that."
To be clear, this loss isn't Bryant's fault. There were a lot of reasons why the Falcons ultimately dropped their fourth straight game.
"To miss that kick is no good for anybody," Bryant said. "We've kind of dug ourselves a hole, and you don't want to end it like that."
But the veteran kicker did make a critical point: This team did dig themselves out of hole a number of times against the Cardinals. They not only showed resiliency down the stretch when a lot of teams might've thrown in the towel, but they definitely sounded like a team that wasn't about to concede anything following the game despite sitting in last place of the NFC South with 10 games to go.
As ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure notes, there will be plenty of questions, including about Bryant and his future.
But the Falcons showed more fight than they have in weeks on Sunday as the Falcons outscored the Cardinals 23-14, might be the best thing this team has going right now.
"There's still a lot of football in front of us," said Matt Ryan. "Clearly this is not where we want to be at this point. I've been on teams that have gone on long win streaks. It just takes a play here in the game or a win here to get a bit of momentum going, and when it's going good you got to ride it."
The defense made key second-half stops but made Cardinals rookie quarterback Kyler Murray look like a perennial All-Pro in a flawless first half. Ryan and the offense scored 23 points in the second half, but scoring only 10 before halftime hurt. Once again, penalties were a factor.
But when a guy as a reliable as Bryant misses such an easy attempt -- the new holder, Matt Schaub, didn't appear to be the one to blame -- you know this just isn't the Falcons' season.
Entering Sunday, Bryant was 56-of-56 on extra point tries when trailing by exactly one point.
On a more positive note, Devonta Freeman delivered a big game with 19 carries for 88 yards on the ground and two touchdown receptions. Freeman had 22 touches after offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter promised to get him more involved. Freeman made some nice cuts and showed his great vision. It's too bad the season might not be salvageable even if he gets his groove back.
Nonetheless, the Falcons need that kind of production from Freeman every week. ...
Ryan started Sunday's game well. The Falcons obviously wanted to change things up to jump-start the offense, so they won the coin toss and elected to receive. Ryan responded by marching his team for a 10-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a 9-yard TD to Calvin Ridley.
Ryan hit on 30 of 34 targets and leads the league in completions and ranks second in yards passing. With the Falcons getting a solid day from play-caller Dirk Koetter on some clever misdirection routes, Ryan connected with eight nine receivers, the biggest chunks coming from Austin Hooper and Julio Jones.
Hooper had 8 catches for 117 yards and a touchdown. Jones also had 8 catches for more than 100 yards, but Hooper definitely seemed to do more damage.
On the injury front. ... Jones (hip) and safety Ricardo Allen (knee) were limited at practice. Cornerback Desmond Trufant (toe) did not participate.
Head coach Dan Quinn said Trufant is no danger of losing his job to Kendall Sheffield and added it's too early to tell if Trufant will be able to return from his toe injury for this week's game against the Los Angeles Rams.
Left guard James Carpenter, right guard Jamon Brown and defensive end all left the game with injuries and all three returned.
If Quinn doesn't fix the defense, his job could be in serious jeopardy. The Falcons rank last in scoring and last in sacks and have registered zero in their past three games.
The loss in Arizona certainly did nothing to quiet the questions about Quinn's future with the club.
As Associated Press sports writer George Henry notes, Quinn keeps harping on the same topics -- effort is solid, execution is lacking -- but he's running out of time as Atlanta has plummeted toward the bottom of the NFC.
If nothing else, Quinn must keep trying to find ways to consistently pressure opposing quarterbacks and create takeaways. The Falcons had no quarterback hits and managed just one hit in the Week 5 blowout loss at Houston.
QBs: Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub
RBs: Devonta Freeman, Brian Hill, Qadree Ollison, Kenjon Barner, Ito Smith
WRs: Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage, Justin Hardy, Christian Blake
TEs: Austin Hooper, Luke Stocker, Jaeden Graham
Baltimore RavensCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 15 October 2019
Lamar Jackson set a new standard for dual-threat quarterbacks.
In the Baltimore Ravens' 23-17 win over the Cincinnati Bengals, Jackson became the first player in the Super Bowl era to produce over 200 yards passing and 150 yards rushing in a regular-season game.
As ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley laid it out, Jackson finished with 236 yards passing and 152 yards rushing against the winless Bengals, completing throws over the middle and juking his way around defenders on runs. The only other quarterback to reach those marks was Colin Kaepernick in the 2012 divisional playoffs. He had 263 yards passing and 181 yards rushing.
Informed of his feat, Jackson said, "It's cool, I guess. I'm trying to win."
Jackson's rushing yards fell 14 yards short of the single-game, regular-season record for an NFL quarterback. Michael Vick had 166 yards rushing in 2006 against the New Orleans Saints.
Jackson's legs and arm helped the Ravens overcome mistakes on defense and special teams to avoid an upset by the Bengals. His total yards outgained Cincinnati, 388-250, and he finished with 21-of-33 passing. The Ravens (4-2) remain atop the AFC North.
"That's the most frustrating thing for a defense," Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. "You have a play covered, and he's an elite athlete. He's one of the rarest I've seen in person. Just one little crease, and he's got 30 yards on you."
Earlier in the game, Jackson became the first quarterback in 13 years to gain more than 100 yards rushing in the first half when he produced 111 against the Bengals. It's the first time a quarterback has accomplished the feat since Vick had 127 yards rushing in the first half on Nov. 26, 2006, and the only other such instance since at least 1991, according to ESPN Stats and Information research.
This was all in line with to the Ravens' game plan. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman told Jackson earlier in the week that he was going to be running a lot after watching film.
"They gave us the looks, and we got out here and it was the same result," Jackson said. "So, I just had to take advantage of it and move the ball."
Last season, in his only other start against the Bengals, Jackson became the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to record at least 100 rushing yards in his first career start.
On Sunday, Jackson darted around the Bengals for 71 yards on Baltimore's opening drive, capping that series with a 21-yard touchdown run. Many of Jackson's runs came off the run option and weren't designed ones.
"He is amazing. You just can't take that for granted," Ravens safety Earl Thomas II said. "It is just something special. You just don't see that every day. We need that from him."
Last Sunday, Jackson tied the NFL record for the fewest games for a quarterback to reach 1,000 yards rushing in a career. He and teammate Robert Griffin III each eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing in 21 games.
"Setting records and things like that, yeah, that's not really what you think about now," head coach John Harbaugh said of Jackson. "But someday it will mean something to him."
Beyond the in-game records, it's worth noting Vick ran for 1,039 yards in 2006, the all-time record for rushing yards by a quarterback and the only 1,000-yard rushing season for a quarterback in NFL history. At the time, Vick looked like a once-in-a-lifetime runner as a quarterback. But it might have only been once in a generation.
Through six games this season, Jackson has 460 rushing yards. That puts him on pace to finish the season with 1,227 rushing yards, which would smash Vick's record.
Jackson ran for 556 yards in the seven games he started as a rookie last season, meaning through 13 career starts he already has 1,016 rushing yards.
Baltimore faces the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, the first meeting between the teams on the West Coast since 2011. ...
Hurdling has become a thing among the Ravens tight ends. Mark Andrews does it. Nick Boyle does it. Hayden Hurst does it. All three of the Ravens' tight ends are strong enough runners to put a shoulder down to gain extra yards. But they are also athletic and have used hurdling effectively on plays in the past.
Harbaugh said he is okay with the strategy as long as it works. It did not work against the Bengals when safety Brandon Williams forced a fumble when Andrews tried to jump over a pair of defenders.
That led to a 22-yard field goal by Randy Bullock that cut Bengals deficit to 17-10. The Ravens gave seven turnovers this season, which have been converted into three touchdowns and three field goals.
"I'm not going to not be me," Andrews said, after another effective game with six catches for 99 yards. "I'm going to keep making plays and do what I can to help this team win."
Kicker Justin Tucker was again named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week after a historic outing. Regarded as the most reliable kicker in the NFL, Tucker lived up to his billing by making all three of his field goal attempts (40, 49, 21) and adding two PATs against the Bengals.
Tucker, 29, became the fastest kicker in NFL history to score 1,000 points (118 games). ...
On the injury front. ... Marquise Brown and ILB Patrick Onwuasor are both day to day, according to Harbaugh. Both missed Sunday's game with ankle injuries. Harbaugh said both would play in Seattle if they can practice this week.
I'll have more on Brown via Late-Breaking Update in coming days, but Brown did not practice Wednesday. ...
The Ravens' secondary took another huge hit when they lost a safety to a season-ending knee injury for the second consecutive game.
One week after Tony Jefferson went down in the fourth quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers, DeShon Elliott's season ended when he was injured on Cincinnati's final drive of the game Sunday.
With injuries an issue throughout their secondary, the Ravens sent second-year linebacker Kenny Young to Los Angeles in exchange for two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters.
Peters should immediately step in and improve their defense as they attempt to make a playoff run. Baltimore is in first place in the AFC North, but the Ravens' defense has struggled this season. Peters should help.
QBs: Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III, Trace McSorley
RBs: Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards, Justice Hill
WRs: Marquise Brown, Willie Snead, Chris Moore, Seth Roberts, Miles Boykin, Jaleel Scott
TEs: Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle, Hayden Hurst
Buffalo BillsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 15 October 2019
The Buffalo Bills are 4-1 coming off their Week 6 bye, a feat that feels simultaneously expected and surprising.
As ESPN.com's Marcel Louis-Jacques suggested, on paper, Buffalo is exactly where it should be after wins against the New York Jets (0-4), New York Giants (2-3), Cincinnati Bengals (0-4) and Tennessee Titans (2-3) and a loss against the New England Patriots (5-0).
If their start is any indication, the Bills can reliably win the games in which they're favored. And doing so the rest of the season should put them in position to make a run at the AFC East title -- yes, you read that correctly.
Despite their recent history, there is no ignoring the Bills' upcoming schedule.
In the next six games, they play four at home, a stretch that includes only one opponent that currently has a winning record. They'll play host to Miami (0-4), Philadelphia (3-2) and Washington (0-5) immediately following the bye before traveling to Cleveland (2-3) and Miami in Weeks 10 and 11 and then playing host to the Broncos (1-4) in Week 12.
In fact, Buffalo has six games remaining against teams with one win or fewer.
Plus, things are about to get tougher for the division-leading Patriots. Beginning in Week 8, New England kicks off a six-game stretch in which it plays Cleveland (2-3), at Baltimore (3-2), at Philadelphia (3-2), Dallas (3-2), at Houston (3-2) and Kansas City (4-1). If Buffalo is to make up ground in the division race -- it's currently one game back -- it'll be during that stretch.
Granted, the Bills' road games against Cleveland, Dallas (Week 13) and New England (Week 16) are not cakewalks. But this team has been resilient when faced with adversity.
There were the four first-half turnovers against the Jets in Week 1. The blown lead at home against the Bengals in Week 3. Even the late rally against the Titans this past week. Buffalo persevered each time, which is a hallmark of a good team. The Bills have also held five straight opponents to 17 points or fewer and fewer than 250 passing yards, all while missing multiple contributors on both sides of the ball.
That's what made this bye week so opportune.
Running back Devin Singletary appeared ready to compete for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year before a hamstring injury sidelined him for the past three games. Starting nickel corner Taron Johnson has missed the past four games after injuring his hamstring in Week 1, and right tackle Ty Nsekhe missed Week 5 with an ankle injury -- and that was before starters Mitch Morse, Cody Ford, Matt Milano and Trent Murphy left the game with injuries Sunday and did not return.
"[The bye is] at a good time," head coach Sean McDermott said. "We've been able to sustain success early on and withstand some of the injuries we incurred ... We've got to get healthy. [The bye week] offers a chance for us also to evaluate where we are and where we're trying to go and some of the challenges we've had and how we plan on solving those challenges."
McDermott confirmed Monday that Murphy and Ford are in the concussion protocol. Milano and Morse are battling hamstring and ankle injuries, respectively. Morse's ankle injury isn't believed to be "all that bad," McDermott said, and he was available in an emergency role Sunday.
It's clear that things could take off for Buffalo as it continues with a remarkably favorable schedule. ...
For the record, Singletary and TE Tyler Kroft, who has yet to play this season with right foot and left ankle injuries, both took part in a brief non-contact practice to open the week and Singletary worked fully on Wednesday; I'll be following up on their status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Pro Football Focus released its rankings of the top 25 wide receivers in the NFL through five weeks. John Brown cracks the list at No. 24.
Brown has just one touchdown this season, but he has become one of the Bills' most dependable players when it comes to moving the chains. Of his 28 receptions in 2019, just five of them have resulted in neither a touchdown or first down.
Brown has been a critical part of the offense and a large reason for Buffalo's offensive success this season.
Brown has 50 or more receiving yards in all five games this season and is the first Bill to do so since Lee Evans opened the 2008 season with seven 50-plus yard contests. Brown's 390 receiving yards in his first five games is third on the Bills list of receivers in their first year with the team behind only Jerry Butler (465) and Bill Miller (438).
For the record, Brown (groin) worked on a limited basis Wednesday; I'll be following up on him as well as Singletary. ...
Meanwhile, Duke Williams was signed off the Bills' practice squad last Saturday and found the end zone for the first time in his career the next day.
Undrafted back in 2016, Williams spent the 2017-18 seasons in the CFL and actually led the league in receiving in 2018. Williams signed with the Bills in the offseason and could now be a fixture in three-wide sets alongside Brown and Cole Beasley. With Zay Jones limited to one snap (he began the game with a shoulder injury) and Robert Foster out, Williams played 78 percent of Buffalo's offensive snaps against Tennessee. That was behind only Brown (81 percent) and ahead of Beasley (63 percent).
According to ESPN's Mike Clay, Williams shouldn't be on your radar in most leagues, but those in 16-team and dynasty leagues should take notice, especially after Jones was shipped off to Oakland last week.
QBs: Josh Allen, Matt Barkley
RBs: Devin Singletary, Frank Gore, T.J. Yeldon
WRs: John Brown, Cole Beasley, Andre Roberts, Isaiah McKenzie, Duke Williams, Robert Foster
TEs: Dawson Knox, Tyler Kroft, Tommy Sweeney, Lee Smith, Jason Croom
Carolina PanthersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 15 October 2019
As ESPN.com's David Newton noted, Kyle Allen is making the decision on whether to speed up the return of Panthers franchise quarterback Cam Newton from a mild Lisfranc sprain a lot easier.
In Sunday's 37-26 victory over Tampa Bay, Allen became the seventh quarterback in the past 25 years to win his first five career starts, including four straight since Newton was shut down after a Week 2 loss to the Bucs.
Allen joined Patrick Mahomes (Chiefs), Jimmy Garoppolo (Patriots/49ers), Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers), Marc Bulger (Rams), Daunte Culpepper (Vikings) and Kurt Warner (Rams) in the 5-0 start club.
Allen isn't interested in making history.
"It means we're winning a lot of games," he said of his accomplishment. "Hopefully, we win more."
While Allen's play hasn't been spectacular, it's been solid enough that the Panthers can let Newton's injured foot continue to strengthen before he returns if they choose. With a bye this week, Newton will have had almost six full weeks without playing when Carolina next plays on Oct. 27 at San Francisco.
Head coach Ron Rivera consistently has insisted there is no timetable for Newton's return, even when asked about the possibility of the 2015 NFL MVP coming back after the bye.
I'm not going to worry about it," Rivera said. "I'm not going to speculate on anything until I have to address that. So until then, we're going to stay in the now, stay in the focus of what we're doing right now.
"As far as I'm concerned, we're not going to deal with the question until it is time. And when the time comes, I will address it. As far as I'm concerned, [Cam's] in the rehab program and he's doing the program and our quarterback right now playing for us is Kyle. So we're not going to address it."
As David Newton explained, Allen hasn't had to be spectacular in part because of running back Christian McCaffrey, an early candidate for NFL MVP. The league's leading rusher coming into the day had a run-and-catch touchdown against the Bucs to give him nine for the season, the most in team history in the first six games.
The defense also has taken the pressure off Allen. Since the Week 2 loss, the Panthers have 23 sacks, including seven on Sunday. Their 27 on the season leads the NFL. Carolina also had five interceptions and a fumble recovery against Tampa Bay, making Allen's job that much easier.
Allen's biggest mistakes before Sunday were four lost fumbles on strip sacks. He didn't have one against the Bucs, and he hasn't thrown an interception in his 5-0 start, something the other six quarterbacks to begin their career 5-0 can't say.
Allen had a passer rating of 104.4 against Tampa Bay, completing 20 of 32 attempts for 227 yards and two touchdowns.
"He's been very consistent for us," Rivera said. "He's made the plays we needed. It's a big part of why we felt so confident with the guys we had coming into training camp."
Former Carolina running back DeAngelo Williams, who is in England as a team ambassador, told ESPN.com that the offense with Allen better suits what coordinator Norv Turner wants to do.
Turner has a history of running his offense through running backs such as LaDainian Tomlinson and Emmitt Smith. With Allen, for the most part, the offense is running through McCaffrey, even though he saw his streak of three straight games with 175-plus yards from scrimmage end against Tampa Bay.
Newton is a dual-threat quarterback unlike any Turner has had.
"I say this: They're not asking Allen what they ask Cam to do," Williams said Thursday. "That's why the team is different. This is a West Coast offense, so when [Turner] took this position, he knew he had to tweak his offense. With Allen, all they're asking him to do is throw the football and hand off to Christian.
"When Cam was the quarterback, they had Cam running the ball, he had the RPO [run-pass option] he had to worry about, he had to make sure the water was cold on the sideline, he had to make sure nobody came on the field when they wasn't supposed to. He had to control a lot of things. Literally, all Allen has to do is read defense as it relates to running the ball."
But when Allen had to step up on Sunday, he did, completing five passes for 68 yards on a 99-yard touchdown drive that gave Carolina a 10-0 lead.
"That's a tribute to our offense," Allen said. "We have a really complementary offense. If they take one part of our game away, we can come out with another part of our game."
Coaches and players don't like messing with a good thing when they've got it, and right now the Panthers have a good thing going with Allen.
"He's doing a great job," tight end Greg Olsen said. "It's hard to win in this league. People go round and around in circles ... but at the end of the day, he's won four games in a row. Three have been away from our home field, which is hard to do in this league."
Asked what it will look like when Newton is ready to return, Olsen didn't want to get into that -- and you can't blame him for that.
"To speculate, until Cam's healthy, back practicing and playing, to dive into hypotheticals doesn't do anybody any good," he said.
McCaffrey did his best not to spark a controversy, but in doing so he sounded almost controversial when asked what the team will look like when Newton is ready.
"It's not my decision," he said.
As David Newton summed up, "It's a pretty simple decision for the Panthers at this point -- as long as Allen keeps winning, he should keep playing."
Maybe we'll start seeing some clues as to how it will be handled over the off week.
For the record, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Monday that Newton's foot injury has healed well and he is expected to be ready to practice after the bye.
Rivera, however, would not confirm that on Tuesday. The coach said he has not received word from trainers that Newton is ready to practice.
He emphasized there is no pressure on Newton to return.
That said, the fun and intrigue will begin soon enough. ...
Also of interest. ... Curtis Samuel scored a pair of touchdowns in London after totaling one during his first five games.
According to ESPN's Mike Clay, Samuel's usage suggested he was on the verge of a better performance after a pair of weekly finishes outside the top 50 wide receivers. Leading into Week 6, Samuel had been on the field for 90 percent of Carolina's snaps and reached six targets in four consecutive games.
Clay added that Samuel is 25th at wide receiver in fantasy points and he'll have weekly WR3 value as long as his 21 percent target share keeps up. ...
One last note here. ... When the Panthers return from their bye week against the 49ers, they'll have a new returner catching kicks.
Carolina waived returner Ray-Ray McCloud on Tuesday morning, the team announced.
McCloud had three muffed punts in two games against the Buccaneers. His third and final fumble came in London.
He's an explosive, dynamic player but we have to protect the football better," Rivera said of McCloud Tuesday.
The team announced on Wednesday that they have signed receiver Greg Dortch off of the Jets’ practice squad.
Dortch averaged 9.4 yards per punt return for the Jets in the preseason and caught eight passes for 49 yards, but failed to make the cut to 53 players for the AFC East team.
QBs: Kyle Allen, Will Grier, Cam Newton
RBs: Christian McCaffrey, Reggie Bonnafon, Jordan Scarlett, Elijah Holyfield
WRs: D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel, Jarius Wright, Greg Dortch, Donte Moncrief, Brandon Zylstra, Chris Hogan
TEs: Greg Olsen, Ian Thomas, Chris Manhertz
Chicago BearsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 15 October 2019
The Chicago Bears came into the season with soaring expectations. They hit their bye staggering and vowing to get things right.
A 24-21 Week 5 loss to the Oakland Raiders left the defending NFC North champions with a 3-2 record heading into their week off and one big question hanging over them.
And it centers on their offense.
The Bears envisioned quarterback Mitchell Trubisky showing why he was drafted with the No. 2 overall pick in 2017 and a more dynamic offense helping take the load off one of the NFL's best defenses in coach Matt Nagy's second season. So far, it's not happening.
The defense led by Khalil Mack has mostly done its part, dominating in the first four games before getting pushed around by the Raiders particularly in the first half. The Bears have no major complaints about their special teams, but it's a different story on offense.
"Offensively the numbers show, we all know it, we all understand it," Nagy said. "We're not playing where we need to be at. We need to be more productive. It's inevitable that a defense that we've had the first four weeks of the season, there's going to be a time when there's going to be a little struggle. (Sunday) happened to be that. That's credit to Oakland. But when is the offense going to step up and take over for that?"
The Bears find themselves in a familiar spot.
A 31-28 overtime loss at Miami last season dropped them to 3-2. They then came up short against New England, falling by seven when Kevin White got stopped at the 1 after hauling in a 54-yard pass from Trubisky. The Bears then went on a 9-1 run that propelled them to the division championship with a 12-4 record and their first playoff appearance since the 2010 season.
Getting the offense on track will be Nagy's main focus leading up to the game against New Orleans on Oct. 20. At the moment, things aren't looking good.
The Bears rank 30th overall on offense and in yards per play, 28th in scoring and 26th in rushing. Instead of establishing themselves among the most potent teams in the NFL, they're keeping company with the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins.
Trubisky struggled in a loss to Green Bay at Soldier Field to start the NFL's 100th season and wasn't much better in a 16-14 win at Denver. He delivered a solid effort in an easy win over winless Washington, completing 25 of 31 passes for 231 yards and his first three touchdowns to go with an interception, only to get knocked out of the next game. Trubisky went down with a left shoulder injury on the opening drive against Minnesota.
Veteran Chase Daniel came on in relief and helped the Bears beat the Vikings 16-6. But he took a step back against Oakland, throwing two interceptions and getting sacked four times.
"The biggest thing is just fixing on the mistakes, watching it, being hard on yourself," Daniel said. "I'm the hardest guy on myself. I didn't play well enough. Backup, regardless, London, it really doesn't matter. It really doesn't. I expect more of myself."
Nagy indicated Trubisky might be ready to return against the Saints. But whether it's him or Daniel behind center, the Bears have to figure out a way to get their ground game going.
Chicago has hit the 100-yard rushing mark just one time this season. Against Oakland, the Bears managed a season-low 42 yards on 17 carries.
One problem is an offensive line expected to be a strength is struggling, both when it comes to creating holes and protecting the quarterback. The Bears allowed four sacks against a defense that had none the previous two weeks.
"We'll have to lick our wounds and be able to come back stronger and use this bye week to get better," Nagy said.
A defense that got gashed for a season-high 169 yards after shutting down Minnesota's Dalvin Cook figures to get at least one starter back. Nagy said this week defensive tackle Bilal Nichols is close to returning after missing three consecutive games because of a broken hand. He had no update on Akiem Hicks, who left in the first half because of an elbow injury. Hicks missed the Minnesota game because of a knee injury.
"We're 3-2, we have a winning record, we know we've been in every game," Nagy said. "I love the character of our guys so when you hit a little bit of adversity we know that we'll pull together and be able to use these losses to make us better. ..."
As noted above, the Bears are hopeful that Trubisky will be able to play against the Saints, but that has yet to be determined.
That said, Trubisky returned to practice Monday.
Defensive tackle Bilal Nichols (hand), offensive lineman Ted Larsen (knee) and receiver Taylor Gabriel (concussion) also practiced Monday, Nagy said. Nagy offered no update on defensive lineman Akiem Hicks (elbow), with the Bears still deciding whether Hicks goes on injured reserve.
Trubisky traveled with the Bears to London, and although he was unable to play against the Raiders, Nagy said Monday: "He's feeling good. I felt like the last couple days he's been in a good place. He's been a part of all the meetings, a part of practice mentally, because that's just as important is staying involved mentally with your guys and with us."
Worth noting. ... Trubisky has an 18-12 record as the starting quarterback, including the cameo role he had in beating the Vikings during his last start. Yet, he is only 2-5 when he's had to go more than eight days between starts -- basically anything longer than an NFL work week.
Trubisky simply hasn't been effective when he's coming off a bye or when he has more than a week to get ready, like the week plus three days they had before their Denver game following a Thursday night season-opening loss to Green Bay.
In games with more than eight days away from the field, Trubisky has a passer rating of 74.63 which is quite a bit lower than his career 86.9 passer rating. He's completed 136 of 228 for 1,370 yards with six touchdowns and six interceptions.
Three of the touchdowns came in one game, the loss at Miami last year.
Trubisky's most disastrous game came against the Rams after he'd been out for three weeks with a shoulder injury last year. He threw three interceptions, was 16 of 30 for only 110 yards, but in that one the Bears' dominant defense prevailed 15-6 over Los Angeles. Jared Goff was even worse with four picks.
Assuming Trubisky plays this week, it will have been 21 days since his last game.
As SI.com's Gene Chamberlain notes, when he had that career-low passer rating for a single game of 33.0 against the Rams, it had been 21 days since his last action. ...
As ESPN's Mike Clay reminded readers, Trey Burton finished the 2018 season strong and appeared well-positioned to make a run at back-to-back top-10 fantasy campaigns.
Instead, Burton missed Week 1 with an injury and has failed to clear 20 yards or score a touchdown in any of his four games.
Oddly, Burton has been on the field for only 57 percent of the team's pass plays, which is down drastically from 79 percent in 2018. In turn, his targets have dropped from 4.6 to 3.5 per game. Burton, who has yet to post a single top-20 fantasy week, is not a viable starter right now and doesn't need to be rostered until his usage increases.
One last note here. ... Nagy confirmed Monday morning on his WBBM-AM 780 radio show that right guard Kyle Long will go on injured reserve for the fourth straight season.
"I think we want to credit him for battling through an injury and it is a tough loss but it's a part of the game," Nagy told WBBM.
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport tweeted the move Sunday after it's been apparent for several games that Long has been slowed by a hip injury.
Nagy also said the Bears would have to play without defensive end Akiem Hicks for an indefinite period of time due to the arm/elbow injury he suffered in London but the hope is he'll return before the end of the season.
The most available option for the Bears at guard as a replacement would be Ted Larsen, but he suffered a knee injury in the Sept. 29 win over the Minnesota Vikings and didn't make the trip with the Bears to London for the Oct. 6 loss to Oakland.
His status will be updated this week.
The other options are playing Rashaad Coward at Long's guard spot or calling Notre Dame undrafted rookie Alex Bars up from the practice squad and starting him.
Hicks joined Long on IR on Tuesday.
Hicks started each of the first three games this season before missing a Week 4 win over the Vikings with a knee injury he sustained in a Week 3 victory over the Redskins. He then returned against the Raiders but was injured on the eighth play of the game's opening possession.
In four games this season, Hicks recorded six tackles, one sack, one fumble recovery and one tackle-for-loss.
QBs: Mitchell Trubisky, Chase Daniel
RBs: David Montgomery, Tarik Cohen, Mike Davis, Kerrith Whyte Jr.
WRs: Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, Taylor Gabriel, Cordarrelle Patterson, Javon Wims, Riley Ridley
TEs: Trey Burton, Adam Shaheen, Ben Braunecker, Bradley Sowell
Cincinnati BengalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 15 October 2019
The Cincinnati Bengals can't stop the run, score touchdowns when they reach the red zone or catch one of those timely breaks that can turn the tide on the most frustrating of seasons.
As ESPN.com's Ben Bay suggested, the mission for first-year head coach Zac Taylor has never been clearer.
After another rough offensive outing in Cincinnati's 23-17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, Taylor has to figure out why his offense has struggled to score during the winless start to the season. For the third straight week, Cincinnati failed to score an offensive touchdown in the first three quarters.
On Sunday, the Bengals raced to a 7-0 lead on a 92-yard kickoff return by Brandon Wilson before permitting the Ravens to score on their first three possessions. Though Cincinnati stiffened after that, the damage had been done in a 23-17 defeat.
Yes, Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson ran for 152 yards and threw for 236. Sure, Baltimore amassed 497 yards -- including 269 on the ground.
What matters to Taylor, besides the final score, is that the Ravens managed only six points over the final 44 minutes.
"I don't care what the stats say, they buckled down," Taylor said of his defense. "They gave up two field goals there the remainder of the game. That's what we needed from them. That's the response we needed. That's not a normal response from a team that's 0-5 at the time."
A defiant Taylor deflected questions about whether he should give up play-calling duties and focus on the bigger picture to turn his struggling team around.
"We've won zero games and have not scored enough points. That 100 percent falls on me," he acknowledged. "But I do like the communication we have as a staff. We're on the same page when the calls come out, regardless of who calls it."
Taylor pointed to the way the Bengals performed on the road against the AFC North leaders as a reason for hope rather than frustration.
"You can throw every stat at me you want -- we're not scoring points, we're not scoring touchdowns, our red zone efficiency is terrible -- but the bottom line is we're 0-6 and our team's got more fight than anybody I've been around," he insisted. "I just told them: When we do find that way, it's going to be the most rewarding win you've ever had in your entire life."
The Bengals didn't make things easy on themselves Sunday, allowing the Ravens to roll up a 212-6 edge in offensive yards and an 11-0 advantage in first downs in the first 15 minutes.
What's also important is getting off to a faster start. For three straight games now, the Bengals have failed to score an offensive touchdown over the first three quarters. That's how a 7-0 lead becomes a 20-10 deficit with 15 minutes left.
"We've got to be better in the first half," Taylor said. "We have to put points on the board and take the pressure off the defense."
This week, the Bengals host Jacksonville in their quest to get their first win under Taylor.
"There's not one person in this locker room who has quit on us," Taylor said. "The mood is still (ticked) off that we haven't found a way to the win, but everyone still believes."
Some signs of a more productive offense would make that easier.
Fair or not, Taylor was expected to bring innovation and creativity to Cincinnati after he spent two seasons as an assistant under Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay. That hasn't happened, as the Bengals have sputtered to their worst start since 2008.
The lack of playmakers at Taylor's disposal, especially with wide receiver A.J. Green still out with an ankle injury, was apparent against Baltimore. There's no question the roster needs to be improved in multiple areas for Cincinnati to be a playoff contender.
But for now, Taylor has to maximize the players currently at his disposal as the Bengals remain one of three teams without a win this season. ...
Andy Dalton had another tough week. He was 21-of-39 passing for 235 yards, no touchdowns and an interception. For the second time this season, Dalton didn't have any completions in the first quarter.
According to ESPN Stats and Information research, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning was the only other player who did that this season. Manning was eventually benched for rookie Daniel Jones.
Dalton is without two of his top receivers, but he still made a couple of bad throws, including a first-half interception that killed a promising Cincinnati drive.
While the day was mostly an offensive disaster, wide receiver Auden Tate showed why the coaching staff has been high on him all season. Tate had five catches for a career-high 91 yards. He had a team-high 12 targets, as the offense relied on Tate often when the Bengals needed a big play.
Tate's athleticism and hands will make him a viable threat in the passing game the rest of the season.
On the injury front. ... Green's recovery from the ankle injury he suffered in late July took a step forward last week when he took part in practice as a limited participant.
The wideout did not move beyond that status on Wednesday. Taylor said that the team hasn’t ruled out a return to full practice at some point this week and offered no predictions about his status for Sunday’s game against the Jaguars, but things remain in the same place as last week for the time being.
“The important thing is we want him for more of our games than not,” Taylor said, via Ben Baby of ESPN.com.
Watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more on this in coming days. ...
Beyond that, CB William Jackson is expected to miss at least a few weeks because of a shoulder injury. Remember, Dre Kirkpatrick also sidelined by a knee injury.
On a more positive note, OT Cordy Glenn is cleared to return to practice. It's the next step for him to return from a concussion suffered in August.
QBs: Ryan Finley, Andy Dalton, Jake Dolegala
RBs: Joe Mixon, Giovani Bernard, Trayveon Williams, Samaje Perine
WRs: Tyler Boyd, A.J. Green, Auden Tate, Alex Erickson, Josh Malone, Stanley Morgan Jr., John Ross
TEs: Tyler Eifert, C.J. Uzomah, Drew Sample, Cethan Carter
Cleveland BrownsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 15 October 2019
As Associated Press sports writer Tom Withers framed it, "The Browns' start was exhilarating. The rest was mostly excruciating.
"Baker Mayfield and Co. aren't living up to expectations -- theirs or anyone else's. ..."
Mayfield threw three more interceptions, Nick Chubb had a costly fumble and Cleveland had a punt blocked Sunday during a 32-28 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, dropping the Browns to 0-3 at home and into their bye week searching for answers.
The Browns (2-4) couldn't sustain momentum after scoring touchdowns on their first three drives, and Mayfield, who now leads the NFL with 11 interceptions, was slowed by a hip injury in the second half.
"Kind of tender right now," Mayfield said, describing his hip and unintentionally labeling Cleveland's season.
After six games, the Browns are bruised.
They led 20-6 just six seconds into the second quarter when Mayfield connected with tight end Ricky Seals-Jones for a 31-yard touchdown pass. But it was downhill from there as Mayfield couldn't match Russell Wilson, who rallied the Seahawks (5-1) to another tight win.
"We had turnovers every which way," wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. said. "Had the game in our hands and let it get away."
Mayfield and Cleveland's offense showed some signs of improvement. Head coach Freddie Kitchens' game plan was to get Beckham more involved, and he finished with six catches for 101 yards while being targeted 11 times.
But the Browns were done in by mistakes, self-inflicted ones, with the last an interception by Mayfield with 2:46 on a pass that hit running back Dontrell Hilliard's hands but was thrown behind him.
"Tough catch for him," said Mayfield, who went 22 of 37 for 249 yards and scored on a 10-yard run. "Just seems a lot of those bounces right there are not going in our favor."
It's true the Browns hurt themselves, but they didn't get any favors from the officiating crew.
One call that really miffed Mayfield came in the third quarter when wide receiver Jarvis Landry was called for an illegal blindside block on Seahawks safety Marquise Blair. Cleveland trailed 25-20 at the time.
"The refs are never an excuse," Mayfield said. "I will probably get fined for saying this, but it was pretty bad today. The guy is squared up with him, running at him and he is lowering his head into Jarvis. What is (Landry) supposed to do? Avoid him? This is not bullfighting. I don't know. It ticks me off."
Kitchens had plenty of reasons to be peeved, but he was careful not to publicly poke the officials.
"I'm not commenting on officiating," he said. "I got a memo the other day. I'm not commenting on it. You guys saw the game."
Cleveland was called for nine penalties, Seattle for 10.
The Browns have been undisciplined since Week 1, when they were penalized 18 times in a loss to Tennessee. They've cleaned things up a bit, but Kitchens said his team must do a better job of not imploding.
"It is a factor of not focusing, not concentrating," he said. "Sometimes, it is playing with emotion instead of passion. After-the-whistle (penalties) are emotion instead of passion. During the play, it is technique, being lazy or not doing your job. There are several things. We do not ever practice penalties."
The Browns will get some time to reassess their fading season before visiting New England in two weeks.
Mayfield said it's imperative he and his teammates turn their uneven start into a positive.
"The great teams learn from their mistakes," he said. "They learn from games like these. The certain plays that you can look back on and say, 'This would have made the difference.' You learn from it and you move forward. This hurts, but the good teams learn from it.
"Down the road, our plan is that it is going to be better for us in the long run and that is how we have to look at it."
But make no mistakes, Mayfield's turnovers having a huge impact. He had his fourth three interception game of his career Sunday. The second-year quarterback has played only 20 games, with 19 starts.
Mayfield leads the NFL with 11 interceptions this season and his 25 dating to last season also lead the league, according to profootballfocus.com.
"I think each and every interception has its own story," Kitchens said Monday, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "I want Baker to continue to work to make better decisions. Then we need to work around him to make sure we're where we need to be. Quarterback play is dictated by people around him being on same page."
The Browns are 0-7 when Mayfield has a multi-interception game, according to Cabot.
Kitchens defended his quarterback after Sunday's loss to Seattle when Mayfield went 22-of-37 for 249 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions.
"I thought Baker was wired in, focused, concentrated during the course of the week," Kitchens said. "We had the best week of practice that we've had and did not execute in the critical situations, and I did not call good enough plays in critical situations. We are going to continue to get better each and every day."
The Browns will need to use the off week to regroup before facing the Patriots. ...
As for Mayfield's hip injury, nobody seems too worried.
"He is fine," Kitchens told reporters on Monday.
He didn't seem fine on Sunday, noticeably limping before exiting the game for evaluation before admitting after the game that the hip is tender and painful.
Kitchens remains optimistic. Asked whether there are any issues with the hip and if Mayfield may miss practice time, Kitchens said, "No, I don't think so."
On Tuesday, it looked like the quarterback was missing practice time.
He stood next to Kitchens in a baseball cap in the early portion of practice open to the media, Cabot reported.
Kitchens subsequently reiterated the injury wasn't a big deal and that there was "no doubt" Mayfield would play on Oct. 27 against the Patriots. ...
A few final items here. ... Seals-Jones played 47 of a potential 69 snaps to lead his position group. Pharaoh Brown played 23 and Demetrius Harris played 19.
According to ESPN's Mike Clay, Seals-Jones will be risky in a Cleveland offense that has yet to reach two passing touchdowns in a single game this season (only Miami can say the same), but if his Week 6 usage carries over, he'll have value in leagues that start two tight ends. ...
Receiver Rashard Higgins still doesn't understand why he didn't play Sunday despite being active.
"I just didn't get in. I don't know why. I was a little surprised," Higgins said, via Daryl Ruiter of 92.3 The Fan. "I felt like I was ready for the San Francisco game [in Week 5]. Little frustrating. I feel like I'm somebody that [Mayfield] can rely on, and when I'm in the game I can make a difference. It'll show next game."
Kitchens explained Monday that Higgins was not in the doghouse. Instead, Kitchens, who doubles as the team's play-caller, said the Browns played mostly 11 personnel and used Antonio Callaway as the third wideout after a good week of practice.
The Browns had a package of plays that included Higgins but never used them.
Higgins made two catches for 46 yards in the season opener before injuring his knee.
And last. ... The Browns announced on Tuesday that they have traded offensive lineman Austin Corbett to the Rams. They'll get an undisclosed draft pick in return.
Corbett was the first pick of the second round of the 2018 draft, but he has not been able to find a home in Cleveland's starting lineup. He made one start in 11 appearances last season and has only played one offensive snap this year.
QBs: Baker Mayfield, Drew Stanton, Garrett Gilbert
RBs: Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, Dontrell Hilliard, D'Ernest Johnson
WRs: Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, Antonio Callaway, Rashard Higgins, Taywan Taylor, Damion Ratley, Derrick Willies
TEs: Demetrius Harris, Ricky Seals-Jones, Pharaoh Brown, David Njoku
Dallas CowboysCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 15 October 2019
As ESPN.com's Todd Archer reminded readers, a year ago, the Cowboys were in a much more difficult spot than they are now after Sunday's 24-22 loss to the previously winless New York Jets.
The Cowboys in 2018 were 3-5 after eight games, needing a game to get things together after trading for wide receiver Amari Cooper before turning things around to finish 10-6, win the NFC East and win a playoff game.
The Cowboys' 3-3 start to this season, however, seems different because of how good they looked in their three-game winning streak to start 2019 -- granted, those wins came against teams that are a combined 3-14 -- and how bad they have looked in their three-game losing streak.
"Yeah, it's frustrating," running back Ezekiel Elliott said. "It's a long season. We've got a lot of football left. A lot can happen in these 10, 11 weeks. We just got to keep grinding and get back to work. We can't get discouraged. We have to be optimistic."
Elliott and many Cowboys likely said something similar last season after their less-than-scintillating start.
But, guess who didn't want to talk about last season? Dak Prescott.
"Last year is last year," the quarterback said. "It's a different team, different people. We know the men that we have. We know the character that we have. We know what we can do. We're not going to look back at least year and say, 'Oh, if we do this.' We know what we have to do. ... Our struggles last year that got us into that spot are completely different than the struggles that got us into this spot.
"We're moving forward. This is a whole different team. It's 3-3, but we have a huge game next week."
Do you know what jump-started the Cowboys' turnaround last season? A 27-20 win against the Philadelphia Eagles. Do you know who the Cowboys play next? The similarly 3-3 Eagles at ATandT Stadium on the national stage Sunday night.
To beat the Eagles on Sunday, Dallas has to figure out a way to start games better. The Cowboys have faced deficits of 28 and 18 points in their past two games.
Offensively, the Cowboys have gone three straight games without a touchdown in the first half. Defensively, they have given up 11 runs of 10 yards or more and 11 passes of 20 yards or more in the three-game losing streak. On special teams, Brett Maher became the third place-kicker in NFL history with multiple field goals of at least 60 yards with a 62-yarder Sunday, but he missed a 40-yarder in the third quarter, giving him four misses on the season.
There should be no greater sense of urgency than against Philadelphia this week.
"I don't know if I can say it's a season-defining game," Elliott said. "We are still tied for the lead in the division. We have to go out there and get a win. Next week is a must-win."
Jerry Jones still has the highest of hopes for his team, but the loss to the Jets, more than the losses to the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers, has the Cowboys' owner and general manager seeing the path to playoff success is more about winning the division than gaining any kind of home-field advantage or first-round bye.
"I think it's all about where you are in your division and that whole competition against each other and that competition in the division," Jones said. "I think that is where it all is. Ultimately, if you are one of the really top teams, which we are not -- we are not -- I hope that someday this season we could be one of the top teams. ... I hope we can do better than just win our division, although I will take that right here in this circumstance.
"I would hope we could get up there and get a little special positioning in the playoffs."
Though last week Jones dismissed the notion of making an in-season coaching change, his patience has to be wearing thin.
Losing to the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers is one thing. Losing to the Jets is quite another.
Yes, the Cowboys were without left tackle Tyron Smith (ankle), right tackle La'el Collins (knee) and wide receiver Randall Cobb (back) entering the game and lost Cooper (quadriceps), starting cornerbacks Byron Jones and Anthony Brown to hamstring injuries and defensive end Dorance Armstrong (neck), but this is a team that has long touted their depth as a plus.
So it's worth noting the only other time Jones made an in-season coaching switch came in 2010 when Jason Garrett was promoted over Wade Phillips after a 1-7 start.
Garrett was the obvious choice to take over then. The choice of passing game coordinator Kris Richard, who calls the defenses, would not be so obvious now with the way his unit has been ripped apart the past two games. In the Cowboys' past two road games, the offense has scored one touchdown, so the choice of offensive coordinator Kellen Moore isn't obvious, either.
Nonetheless, Stephen Jones, the Cowboys' executive vice president, reiterated what owner Jerry Jones said a day earlier: Garrett's job isn't in danger.
"Absolutely not. We're ready to go," Stephen Jones said on his radio show Monday on 105.3 The Fan. "I think this team just needs to get a win under its belt, and I still think we can have a great year and feel good about it and feel great about Jason and his staff and feel like we'll go to work here this week and move forward."
Garrett also chimed in.
"I'm focused on doing my job as well as I can do it," he said, per The Athletic.
He better. The Cowboys' season has reached the critical point already. ...
Meanwhile, Archer also pointed out the best quarterbacks can make things happen when things are bleakest. In order to take the next step, Prescott has to do that as well. Without Cobb and Cooper for all but one series, Prescott was throwing to backups Tavon Austin and Cedrick Wilson.
He was hurt by five drops of what should have been catchable passes but his accuracy should have been better in certain scenarios. He stayed away from the big mistakes but he failed to make key plays in the passing game.
On the injury front. ... NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported that Cooper was diagnosed with a thigh bruise. Rapoport noted that while the injury can be horribly painful, there is no indication of long-term damage. The issue was no worse Monday than it has been, according to Archer, but the Pro Bowl receiver's availability for Sunday night is in "serious question."
Cooper has appeared on the injury report after every practice this season. He was a full participant with a foot injury for the first nine practices before the first three games. He was limited with an ankle injury for four of six practices in Weeks Four and Five.
The Cowboys added the quadriceps injury last week.
That means Cooper has had seven limited practices of the 18 this season, but he has played 297 of a possible 420 snaps.
Cooper had 32 receptions for 512 yards and five touchdowns in the first five games. He had 11 catches for a career-high 226 yards and a touchdown against the Packers, becoming the first Cowboys receiver with multiple 200-yard receiving games.
As noted above, playing without Cooper and Cobb, the Cowboys were forced to lean on Austin (92 percent of snaps played) and Wilson (59 percent) for the bulk of the contest. Austin led the Cowboys with five catches for 64 yards. Thirty-seven-year-old tight end Jason Witten generated five catches for 57 yards.
Garrett told reporters that both Cooper and Cobb would be evaluated on a day-to-day basis this week but neither practiced Wednesday; I'll have more on both via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush
RBs: Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard
WRs: Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, Randall Cobb, Tavon Austin, Devin Smith, Ventell Bryant
TEs: Jason Witten, Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz
Denver BroncosCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 15 October 2019
As ESPN's Jeff Legwold suggested, in a season that has been short on style points, the Broncos are doing what needs to be done to slug their way out of a 0-4 start as the defense did the heavy lifting Sunday in a 16-0 victory over the Tennessee Titans.
The victory was the Broncos' first shutout win since a 23-0 victory over the New York Jets in 2017 and nudged them to 2-4 with a potential season-saving type of matchup Thursday night in Denver against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Broncos held their second consecutive opponent to fewer than 50 yards rushing and finished with seven sacks on two Titans quarterbacks.
The game in two words: Grind it. It was certainly not suitable for framing, but for a team that had lost two games on the last play in the first month of the season, any win, even a teeth-grinding, scraped-knuckle affair like Sunday's, was a welcome sight.
Especially for a defense that seems to continue to grow into coach Vic Fangio's system -- the Titans had just 122 total yards when they took over with 4 minutes, 53 seconds left in the game for a stat-padding drive.
Meanwhile, from an offensive perspective, there is good and bad.
Phillip Lindsay not only has gotten back to 2018 form, but he has improved upon it. His injury last year caused him to change some things and he has gotten used to those changes. It has paid dividends so far this year. His vision and toughness have been a huge boost for the Broncos offense.
As a receiver, he is solid but his hands aren't the most natural and he added another drop in this game.
Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders did not play in the second half because of a knee injury. Sanders was on the field for most of the first half -- he had one catch for no gain.
Sanders' absence might have opened the door to exploiting the Titans' weakness against tight ends.
It's not that they didn't try -- quarterback Joe Flacco's interception came on a deep throw attempt that Noah Fant didn't look for -- but the Broncos largely missed out on what had worked for all of the other Titans' opponents this season.
Coming into the game, four of the eight passing touchdowns Tennessee had surrendered had been caught by opposing tight ends and the only 100-yard receiving game the Titans have surrendered this season was also to a tight end.
The Broncos played plenty of two- and three-tight end looks throughout the game, but Fant had the only two catches from the group by the end of the third quarter.
Flacco's interception was not his fault -- Fant did not turn his head to track the ball -- and he largely kept the offense out of trouble on what was obviously going to be a game with a significant defensive tilt.
He did hit one downfield shot -- a 41-yarder to Courtland Sutton in the second quarter -- but it was the defense's day.
While Flacco did not have the splash plays the Broncos continue to search for, he kept the Broncos away from the game-changing mistake on a day when that was enough.
It better be. Because that seems to be as good as it gets right now.
In fact, since scoring TDs on their first two possessions at Los Angeles, the Broncos have reached the end zone just once in their last 22 drives, subtracting kneel-downs. Teams are doubling Sutton in the red zone and nobody's picked up the slack.
But Sunday was a good game for DaeSean Hamilton. There were a couple runs that Hamilton missed his block, but otherwise, he did his job. As a receiver, he ran good routes and did a good job of getting open. His routes were clean and crisp, and should be seeing an increase in usage. ...
As SI.com's Chad Jensen notes, one of the few offensive statistical categories where the Broncos are even ranked in the top-15, the rushing attack has been the only staple the team can hang its hat on. Averaging 116 yards per game on the ground, Denver's ground attack has had to serve as the tip of the spear.
Phillip Lindsay has 397 rushing yards on 84 carries (4.7 average), while Royce Freeman has 284 yards on 66 totes (4.3 average). The second-year duo has been the offense's only saving grace.
What's really surprised Jensen has been the receiving impact of both Lindsay and Freeman out of the backfield. Outside of Sutton, the Broncos' RB duo have been the only other semi-consistent force in the passing attack, combining for 40 receptions and 292 yards.
Much of the credit for the Broncos' production on the ground has to go to the offensive line, which has been mostly maligned by fans. This starting five has been shaky at times in pass protection but its strength has been as road-graders, opening up holes for Lindsay and Freeman on the ground. ...
Denver has a quick turnaround to Thursday's game against the Chiefs and Sanders's early exit suggested he might have a hard time making it into the lineup. Reports on Monday, however, indicated Sanders avoided a serious injury and the Broncos' practice report brought some more good news.
Sanders was listed as a limited participant in Monday's estimated practice report before the team bumped him up to full participation on Tuesday.
Sanders was not given an injury designation on the Broncos’ final injury report of the week, which leaves him on track to play in the matchup of AFC West teams.
The Broncos ruled out cornerback Bryce Callahan with the foot injury that’s kept him out all season. Right tackle Ja'Wuan James has missed the last five games and is questionable to play due to a knee injury. ...
One last note here. ... Drew Lock is "ahead of schedule" in his recovery from a sprained thumb.
Lock, who resumed throwing about two weeks ago, was eligible to resume practicing Monday, though Denver won't be getting in much practice work this week with the Chiefs coming to town for a Thursday night game at Mile High.
As Rotoworld.com notes, if all goes well, Lock could be activated as soon as Week 9. Brandon Allen has been serving as Flacco's backup, though Lock should occupy that role upon his return.
That said, there are others who could be designated to return from IR.
Per 9News.com's Mike Klis, neither Lock, Theo Riddick nor Jake Butt were at practice Wednesday so they're potential activation clock does not start. They're all likely to practice next week along with Tim Patrick. Only two can be activated.
QBs: Brandon Allen, Drew Lock, Brett Rypien, Joe Flacco
RBs: Phillip Lindsay, Royce Freeman, Devontae Booker, Theo Riddick
WRs: Courtland Sutton, Fred Brown, Daesean Hamilton, Juwann Winfree, Diontae Spencer
TEs: Noah Fant, Jeff Heuerman, Troy Fumagalli, Jake Butt
Detroit LionsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 15 October 2019
As Profootballtalk.com's Josh Alper notes, officiating is in the spotlight after Monday night's 23-22 Packers win because of the impact that a pair of illegal hands to the face calls on Lions defensive lineman Trey Flowers had on Green Bay's fourth quarter comeback.
The Packers were down 22-13 with 12 minutes to play in the game and the Lions could have been even further ahead had they executed more effectively in the red zone early in the game. The Lions scored on their first three possessions, including a pair of short field goals by Matt Prater that came after the offense sputtered close to the end zone.
The Lions' accurate, reliable kicker made all five of his field goals and an extra point. He was a large reason the Lions were competitive and almost pulled out the win.
Questionable officiating aside, with the division lead on the line, Detroit missed myriad opportunities to blow this one open.
After the game, head coach Matt Patricia said that "we have to get touchdowns" and quarterback Matthew Stafford focused on falling short on that front.
"That was the story of the game, in my opinion," Stafford said, via the Detroit News. "I thought our defense played well enough for us to win the game. We made some big plays on offense that we shouldn't have blown in the red zone. We can't do that on the road against a good team."
Leaning on a deep passing attack, the Lions made it inside Green Bay's 10-yard line on their first three possessions, but came away with just 13 points. On the night, Detroit finished drives on or inside Green Bay's 35 six times but scored just 22 points from those possessions, having Matt Prater bail out an offense that struggled to close late in drives.
The Lions' red-zone offense was particularly poor; rookie tight end T.J. Hockenson dropped a jump-ball touchdown, and on Detroit's lone score of the night, Kerryon Johnson just barely crossed the goal line on a fourth-and-1.
Unable to lean on a running game that mustered just 56 yards against a Packers front seven that had surrendered over 100 in each of its last four games, Detroit was also stuck in poor third-down situations all night and went 3-for-13 as a result.
The Lions totaled just 13 first downs on the evening (and four in the second half), compared to Green Bay's 22.
Stafford was once again efficient, completing 56.3 percent of his passes while being adept on big shots and play-action work. He hit two big plays early, a 66-yard flea flicker to Kenny Golladay on the first play of the night and a 58-yard reception to Marvin Hall on a play-action pass on the first play of the second possession.
It showed Detroit's aggression early in the game trying to take advantage of the Packers' defense, something the Lions pulled away from later in the game.
But Stafford had another game in a stretch that has been among the best of his career, completing 18 of 32 passes for 265 yards.
In the end, however, Detroit entered like Lions, totaling 188 yards in the first quarter alone but went out like lambs, squandering an opportunity to seize control of a contentious NFC North.
As Alper suggested, nothing will smooth over the hurt feelings about the officiating, but controlling what you can control makes it harder for other things to cost you a game in the final minutes.
QBs: Jeff Driskel, Matthew Stafford
RBs: Ty Johnson, J.D. McKissic, Paul Perkins
WRs: Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, Danny Amendola, Jermaine Kearse, Brandon Powell, Chris Lacy, Travis Fulgham
TEs: T.J. Hockenson, Jesse James, Logan Thomas
Green Bay PackersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 15 October 2019
As ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky wondered, how much longer can Aaron Rodgers keep doing this with smoke and mirrors -- if that's what you can call the collection of receivers the Green Bay Packers had by the end of things on Monday night against the Detroit Lions?
A week after the Packers beat the Dallas Cowboys with four completions -- four -- to receivers (the first time they've won a game with so few catches by wideouts in 18 years), they did it to the Lions, beating them 23-22 on Mason Crosby's 23-yard field goal as time expired. Green Bay did it without Davante Adams (missed his second straight game, turf toe) and without Geronimo Allison (left the game in third quarter, head injury).
That's two of their three starting receivers.
They did it with Marquez Valdes-Scantling and a couple of receivers you probably had never heard of.
One of them, Darrius Shepherd, nearly cost them the game with a fourth-quarter drop at the Lions' 1-yard line that turned into an interception.
The other, Allen Lazard, helped them win the game.
As SI.com's Bill Huber advised readers, in late August, Rodgers made his pitch for Lazard to make the roster.
"There are a lot of guys with legitimate shots to make the team -- some guys who you didn't maybe think of before camp who have had incredible camps. And I'm talking about, specifically, Allen Lazard," Rodgers said at the time. "He's had a really nice camp, he's made a bunch of plays. He's always showing up on special teams. He does things the right way in practice. I think he's put himself in position to legitimately be playing for all 32 teams. And we see that from time to time, the cliché that you're always playing for the entire NFL, and that is true to a point if you're good enough, and Allen is definitely good enough to be an NFL player. I think he's had a fantastic training camp."
Ultimately, Lazard didn't make the 53-man roster and spent the first week of the season on the practice squad.
Late on Monday night, Rodgers said he "put in a good word" for Lazard to get into the game. With the Packers trailing 22-13, the offense sputtering without injured Adams and Allison, and with Darrius Shepherd's slip turning a potential touchdown into an interception and a 10-point swing on the scoreboard, Rodgers asked receivers coach Alvis Whitted if Lazard could get into the game.
This time, Rodgers' suggestion didn't fall on deaf ears. And it might have kept the Packers in first place in the NFC North. Rodgers' 35-yard touchdown pass to Lazard pulled Green Bay within 22-20 with 9 minutes remaining, and Lazard caught three passes on the final drive that resulted in Crosby's game-winning field goal.
Lazard, an undrafted free agent in 2018 after a record-setting career at Iowa State, was plucked off Jacksonville's practice squad late last season and caught one pass for 7 yards as a rookie. That was the only catch of his career before Monday night. In 21 snaps this season, Lazard hadn't been targeted in the passing game.
That changed in the fourth quarter against the Lions. After Rodgers' deep ball to Lazard fell incomplete against tight coverage, Rodgers went deep to Lazard again. This time, the ball was perfect, and Lazard made a tumbling catch for a touchdown.
"It was obviously an awesome moment, getting my first touchdown -- especially here in Lambeau," Lazard said. "Just kind of fulfilling the journey of being able to be here with this amazing organization. To catch a touchdown in a critical moment is something huge and something that, as a kid, you grow up dreaming about. It feels great to fulfill it."
On the final drive, Rodgers threw five passes. Three of them were to Lazard, which he turned into three catches for 30 yards and a pair of first downs. With the Packers staring at their second consecutive home loss, circumstances forced the former practice-squad receiver to become Rodgers' go-to receiver.
"Obviously, it means everything," Lazard said. "Having his trust and belief in me instilled a huge amount of confidence in being able to go out there and play comfortably. For him to call my number is huge for me. To be able to go out there and make the play was awesome."
The moment wasn't too big for the 6-5 Lazard. Why not?
"Because I've been making plays my entire life," he said. "I'm made for stuff like this. I'm made for big moments. It's something that I'll never back down from."
Considering the health of the receiver corps and a short week to get ready for Sunday's home game against Oakland, Lazard could be a focal point of next week's game plan rather than an afterthought.
"I think sometimes you have an injury or whatnot and that's how some guys become who they are," LaFleur said. "He was given his opportunity and to his credit, he was ready for that opportunity. ..."
In the end, Rodgers threw for 283 yards as Green Bay won for the second consecutive week without Adams.
I'll obviously be following the status of Adams, Allison and the rest via Late-Breaking Update as the Packers prepare for Oakland in coming days. ...
Meanwhile, as NFL.com noted, Aaron Jones followed up his four-touchdown breakout against Dallas by playing sidekick on Monday night.
An early fumble and dropped TD pass relegated Jones (60 total yards) to split snaps with Jamaal Williams for much of the game. Williams, who returned Monday from a concussion suffered in Green Bay's last prime-time game in Week 4, enjoyed his best day on the ground since Dec. 2017, racking up 104 rushing yards on 14 carries and adding 32 yards through the air.
Green Bay missed the third-year back out of BYU in its loss to Philly and might've have fallen Monday night if he had not returned to action.
For the third straight week, the Packers had a player go for 100 yards of total offense in the first half. And it has been three different players. Williams (107 yards -- 79 rushing and 28 receiving) did it against the Lions after Jones (114) did it in Week 5 against the Cowboys and Adams (158) in Week 4 against the Eagles. ...
On Jones' dropped touchdown pass in the second quarter, he had 4.6 yards of separation from the closest defender.
QBs: Aaron Rodgers, DeShone Kizer, Tim Boyle
RBs: Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, Dexter Williams
WRs: Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Geronimo Allison, Allen Lazard, Jake Kumerow, Darrius Shepherd
TEs: Jimmy Graham, Marcedes Lewis, Robert Tonyan, Jace Sternberger
Houston TexansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 15 October 2019
As ESPN.com's Sarah Barshop framed it, "In a game featuring two of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL in Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes, it was the Houston Texans' running game that stole the show in their 31-24 victory over the Chiefs."
Indeed, the Texans' offense has been up and down this season, but it has had a lot of success in its last two games. In Week 5 against the Falcons, Watson threw for five touchdowns. And on Sunday against the Chiefs, the Texans ran for a combined 192 yards and three touchdowns.
"We wanted to establish the running game," wide receiver Keke Coutee said. "We knew they weren't as physical, so we knew we could run the ball on them well. So we did."
Carlos Hyde had his best performance as a Texan and it came against one of his former team.
Hyde put up his first 100-yard rushing performance of the season with 26 carries for 116 yards and a touchdown. Hyde also added one catch for 14 yards.
"Yeah, you know I definitely had a little extra chip on my shoulder," Hyde said. "How things turned out here, it gave me extra motivation. I'm thankful for where I'm at and how things are going."
The sixth-year back spent the offseason with the Chiefs before being traded to Houston prior to the start of the season. But on the first play of the game, Hyde fumbled the ball against his former team. The Chiefs would recover and kick a field goal to gain an early 10-0 lead in the first quarter. Hyde didn't let that shake him.
"Carlos is a great running back," DeAndre Hopkins said. "He made a mistake early in the game. But, he kept his head up. So, that speaks a lot about who he is as a player."
Hyde continued to make plays as the Texans chipped away at a 17-3 Kansas City lead. He then scored on a two-yard touchdown run with 3:06 left in the second quarter that would cut the Chiefs' lead to just one point, 17-16. Hyde also ran for a 26-yard gain in the third quarter for his longest run since Week 14 of the 2017 season.
"When our offense is moving the ball like that, things are clicking, it's just hard to stop us," Hyde said. "There are so many play makers on this offense. It's a beauty."
Hyde has scored a touchdown in three of his last four games.
"Carlos has been a great addition since day one," Watson said. "He has been towing the ball, towing the rock just where Lamar Miller left off so he has been doing a heck of a job and you've got Duke of course that comes in and does the same thing, but it was big for Carlos especially this game."
Through six games this season, Hyde has rushed for 426 yards on 99 carries and three touchdowns. He has also added six catches for 22 yards receiving. Hyde now has 29 rushing touchdowns in his NFL career.
It was Hyde's first 100-yard rushing game since Week 2 of the 2017 season against the Seahawks, a span of 33 games with four teams, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
By running the ball well, Houston was able to keep the dangerous Chiefs offense off the field, winning the battle for time of possession, 39:15-20:12, following a similar blueprint the Colts used a week ago when they handed Kansas City their first loss of the season.
Hyde said in this offense, the Texans "just let me be myself" and "play my game."
"You can't just focus on me," Hyde added. "Like I said, there's so many other guys on this team that's a threat, that can take over the game at any moment, so the focus is not just on me. So I can just play my game, play free and just be me."
Indeed, Watson completed 30 of 42 passes for 280 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. He also ran for two touchdowns, including the go-ahead score with less than seven minutes remaining in the game. In a game in which the Texans ran the ball 41 times, Watson still completed passes to seven receivers, including tight end Darren Fells, who led Houston with six catches for 69 yards. Fells had two touchdown receptions a week earlier against the Falcons.
"I think we're getting to that point where we're figuring out what we want to be on offense," Hyde said. "... I think things are definitely starting to jell. Things are definitely starting to come together."
And not only did the offensive line have success in the running game, but for the second week in a row, the unit protected Watson.
After giving up 18 sacks in the first four weeks, the offensive line has not allowed a sack in the past two, and opposing defenses have combined for three quarterback hits. Houston has found an offensive line combination that's working -- at least in the small sample size of two games -- but will have to make some changes for next week after right tackle Tytus Howard injured his knee in the third quarter. Head coach Bill O'Brien said he hopes Howard will be able to return this season.
Now at 4-2, with a big victory over the Chiefs under their belt, the Texans have shown they can play with -- and beat -- one of the best teams in the AFC.
While O'Brien was quick to point out there is still a lot the Texans can work on before they go to Indianapolis this Sunday in a battle for first place in the AFC South, there was no doubt that this felt like a big victory in the locker room, one perhaps they might not have gotten without the additions of Hyde and OT Laremy Tunsil right before the season.
"We definitely should put the league on notice after that one," Hyde said. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Hopkins extended his streak to 101 consecutive games with a reception to start his career. This is the longest streak in franchise history to start a career. Hopkins has the longest active streak in the NFL to start a career and ties Randy Moss (1998- 2004) for the seventh-longest streak of games with a reception to start a career in the Super Bowl era.
Ka'imi Fairbairn has now missed four extra points in the last four games, including one in the second quarter on Sunday. He is now tied with the injured Stephen Gostkowski for the most in the NFL in 2019. Fairbairn missed only two all of last season. After Fairbairn missed two last week against the Falcons, O'Brien said he was "pushing a little bit," and that "he has to make the kicks." Fairbairn also missed a 46-yard field goal in the third quarter.
On the injury front. ... Kenny Stills (hamstring) practiced fully on Wednesday; he has missed the past two games with his injury but appears to be on track to return this week.
Hopkins (ribs) and Will Fuller (calf, oblique) were limited. Hyde (calf) and Taiwan Jones (hip) worked fully.
I'll follow up on all involved via Late-Breaking Update as developments warrant in coming days. ...
According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, cornerback Bradley Roby suffered what's considered a "significant" hamstring strain which could keep him out for a month.
The Texans have a Week 10 bye, which reduces the exposure, but it's still another problem for a team that was without cornerback Johnathan Joseph yesterday as well, leaving Lonnie Johnson, Phillip Gaines and Keion Crossen as the Texans' available corners.
They're also expected to be without right tackle Tytus Howard for some period of time. Howard left yesterday's game on a cart with a knee injury, though he's not expected to need surgery.
Entering the game, Howard had the third-best Pass Block Win Rate among OTs, according to ESPN metrics powered by NFL Next Gen Stats data.
QBs: Deshaun Watson, AJ McCarron
RBs: Carlos Hyde, Duke Johnson, Buddy Howell, Taiwan Jones
WRs: DeAndre Hopkins, Kenny Stills, DeAndre Carter, Keke Coutee, Will Fuller
TEs: Darren Fells, Jordan Akins, Kahale Warring, Jerell Adams, Jordan Thomas
Indianapolis ColtsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 15 October 2019
As Associated Press sports writer Michael Marot suggested, outsiders thought Andrew Luck's surprise retirement would doom the Indianapolis Colts' playoff hopes.
Turns out, it only made them more determined.
Five games into the season, Indy heads into the bye week with three wins, tied for the AFC South lead with Houston and full of momentum after Jacoby Brissett pulled off a feat Luck could not in what turned out to be his final NFL game -- winning at Kansas City.
"It's a great win," said Brissett, Luck's successor. "Playing against a team like this, on their home field, on 'Sunday Night Football', who knows where it's going to take us. But we're pointed in the right direction."
There's little doubt the Colts (3-2) have been one of the early season's biggest surprises despite the bumpy ride.
Luck's impromptu postgame announcement on Aug. 24 sent shockwaves through the league and down the Colts' sideline, where some players said they first learned of the decision from screaming fans.
Two days before the season opener, longtime offensive line coach Howard Mudd also called it quits.
Then retirement rumors started swirling around 46-year-old Adam Vinatieri after the league's career scoring leader missed five of his first eight kicks, including two field-goal attempts and an extra point in a season-opening overtime loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.
Week 2 was marred by the loss of All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard because of a concussion, which kept him out of the next three games. And the defense some thought could crack the league's top 10 started developing its own cracks.
But the Colts refused to give in to the distractions or the detractors and instead relied on the deep roster assembled by general manager Chris Ballard to overcome obstacles and prove the doubters wrong.
"We've got guys who can step up at any moment and make a play to put us in position to win the game," said Justin Houston, the 2014 league sacks champion who signed with the Colts as a free agent in March and helped seal Sunday's win with a fourth-down tackle late in the game. "I think Chris Ballard did a great job of putting this team together, and we've got to continue to build on what we have. We have a great team."
According to Marot, it's all by design.
Almost from the moment Ballard arrived in Indy in 2017, he's talked about the necessity of building around a philosophy rather than a couple of star players.
The difference is easily recognizable.
After Edgerrin James suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in October 2001, the Colts won only two more games and missed the playoffs. When Peyton Manning sat out the 2011 season with a neck injury, the Colts lost their first 13 games and finished 2-14. And when Luck missed the 2017 season while recovering from surgery on his throwing shoulder, Brissett went 4-11 as the starter.
This year, Brissett has thrown as many touchdown passes as Tom Brady (10) and only one more interception (three) than Brady, whom he backed up in 2016.
Indy has continued winning despite a depleted receiving group and secondary and the absence of Leonard, their top defensive player. And they've done it, largely by relying on an offensive line that went from worst to first in one season and is built to excel at old-school football.
So far, Ballard's measured investments have paid big dividends.
The Colts are No. 4 in the league in rushing (142.0 yards) and held Kansas City to a season-low 10 points largely by keeping Patrick Mahomes, the reigning MVP, off the field for all but 7½ minutes in the second half Sunday night.
It's no surprise to head coach Frank Reich, who was committed to being a run-first team long before Luck's departure.
"I believe that Chris and his staff have done a great job of getting the kind of players in here that we can be a run-dominant team," Reich said. "I think we're starting to see that, but it's never easy."
And now the Colts find themselves in position to use the next five games to position themselves for a playoff push some considered inconceivable less than two months ago.
Following the bye, Indy hosts the Texans and Broncos before visiting Pittsburgh. The Colts then return home for matchups with Miami and Jacksonville -- and what they hope will be the kind of finish Ballard anticipated even on the night of Luck's farewell speech.
That's what makes this game great -- teams win," Ballard said in August. "The story is just starting, man. It's not the end of the story yet. Everybody's going to write the end of the story, but I'm telling you the story's not over yet."
Meanwhile, with five weeks in the books, Marlon Mack ranked second among running backs in carries (101) and fourth in rushing yards (470).
His yards per carry (4.65) and yards after contact per attempt (2.09) both rank among the league's top backs. Despite that production, Mack is delivering RB2 numbers due to a minimal role as a receiver. Mack has seen only nine targets, which ranks 38th among running backs.
As ESPN's Mike Clay notes, Indianapolis has called run on 69 percent of his snaps, allowing Mack only 14.8 pass routes per game. Mack will benefit from the Colts' calling the league's third-run-heaviest offense, but his lack of receiving work will continue to limit him to midrange RB2 numbers. ...
On the injury front. ... Reich told reporters Monday that linebacker Darius Leonard and safety Clayton Geathers have cleared concussion protocol.
Parris Campbell (abdominal) appears likely to miss another game after having a procedure before the bye.
QBs: Jacoby Brissett, Brian Hoyer, Chad Kelly
RBs: Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines, Jordan Wilkins, Jonathan Williams
WRs: Zach Pascal, Chester Rogers, Deon Cain, Devin Funchess, Ashton Dulin, T.Y. Hilton, Parris Campbell
TEs: Eric Ebron, Jack Doyle, Mo Alie-Cox
Jacksonville JaguarsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 15 October 2019
As NFL.com's Kevin Patra framed it, "The New Orleans Saints ripped the mustache off Minshew Mania on Sunday. ..."
For the first time all season, Gardner Minshew looked like a rookie against a Saints defense that battered, confused and discombobulated the signal-caller.
Minshew completed just 14 of 29 passes for 163 yards, no TDs, one INT and a 51.4 passer rating in the 13-6 loss. It was the first time the rookie completed less than 50 percent of his pass attempts, the first time he hasn't scored a TD, and he earned a career-low in passing yards.
"It was a tough day," Minshew said, via the Florida Times-Union. "They are a good team. I missed some balls that I can't miss. They played good coverage at times and got after us up front at times. They did a really good job taking away our quick stuff."
The Saints' defensive line dominated Sunday, keeping Minshew from extending the play, which has become a trademark in his infantile career. New Orleans sacked the rookie twice -- both from Cameron Jordan -- with three QB hits, and a bevy of other pressures.
"We've played some elusive quarterbacks our first four or five games," Jordan said, referring to Deshaun Watson, Dak Prescott and Russell Wilson. "We had a game plan set in motion. I feel like we went out and executed just that. We made him a pocket passer."
The Jaguars' offense posted season lows in points (6), total yards (226), pass yards (151), rush yards (75), red zone percent (0.0 percent), and big plays (4).
The secondary deployed Marshon Lattimore on D.J. Chark, adding safety help over the top to wipe away Minshew's favorite target. Chark was held to a season-low 43 yards on three catches. The Saints' D compiled seven total passes defended, including three by Lattimore.
"It's just about showing different looks, trying to confuse him into throwing us the ball and he did that in the second half," cornerback Eli Apple said. "Anytime you can keep him in the pocket, and have someone that can converge on him, that just makes it easier for us on the back end."
With Drew Brees out, the Saints' defense has stepped to the forefront, carrying the squad through some offensive struggles. In the last three games, New Orleans' D has allowed 13.3 points per game, 245.0 yards per game, and a 75.6 passer rating.
Sunday marked the second time in three games, the Saints' D held an opponent to 10 or fewer points, joining the Patriots (3), 49ers (2) and Bears (2) as the only teams to allow 10 or fewer points multiple times this season (entering "MNF").
Credit Sean Payton's squad for forging ahead with its defensive identity that has produced four straight wins sans Brees. The best teams adapt in times of uncertainty. Quieting Minshew Mania on Sunday once again proved Payton remains one of the game's top coaches as New Orleans remains atop the NFC South.
The doesn't detract from what Gardner is capable of and offers the offense.
When he was in rhythm in the first five weeks, he was decisive and got the ball out quickly. He wasn't able to do that as much against the Saints, who did a good job of taking away the downfield throws. The Saints sacked Minshew twice, and he was under pressure all day.
It was a fun ride for the first month-plus of the season, and it can still be fun if Minshew shows he's able to bounce back Sunday at Cincinnati.
Other notes of interest. ... The rest of the pass-catchers didn't exactly step up with the Saints concentrating on Chark.
Dede Westbrook (three for 53 yards) was the only wide receiver other than Chark to catch a pass, and Chris Conley was shut out. They struggled to get separation, and Minshew was forced to hold on to the ball too long.
In addition, the Jaguars really felt the loss of tight end James O'Shaughnessy to a torn ACL.
Geoff Swaim, Seth DeValve and recently re-signed Ben Koyack aren't exactly dynamic pass-catchers and combined for two catches for 21 yards.
But if everything goes well this week the Jaguars may finally have rookie tight end Josh Oliver on the field on Sunday in Cincinnati.
Oliver missed all of preseason and the first five weeks of the season with a hamstring injury, but he has practiced on a limited basis the last two weeks. Head coach Doug Marrone said the plan is to give him more work in practice this week and "if nothing happens during the week he'll have a great shot to play on Sunday. ..."
Leonard Fournette helped out in the pass game with six catches, but the Jaguars need more production from the receivers other than Chark.
Beyond that, Fournette racked up 76 yards on the ground and 46 yards through the air, totaling over 100 all-purpose yards.
However that's not the best thing that came out of Fournette's performance.
According to SI.com's Trevan Pixley, Fournette has been running hard all season long and that is one of the most refreshing things to see so far this year. He's still facing stacked boxes -- but he still finds a way to fall forward. I'd say that's the best part of his game by far. He doesn't take plays for negative yards, he always falls for at least one or two yards.
He has 584 rushing yards on the season, which is already 145 more yards than he had last year. He now has over 770 all-purpose yards. Not only is his stock up but his maturity level and his status as a professional is on the rise as well. ...
On the injury front. ... Receiver Marqise Lee has a sprained ankle that was described as minor to moderate, a source tells NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. Lee is considered week-to-week, so he'll likely miss some time, Rapoport adds.
I'll have more on Lee and on Oliver's progress via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
And finally. ... The Jaguars have pulled the trigger.
The Jags are trading disgruntled cornerback Jalen Ramsey to the Los Angeles Rams for two first-round draft picks (2020 and 2021) and a fourth-round pick in 2021. It's quite a haul for the Jaguars, who move on from one of the top players in the game.
QBs: Nick Foles, Gardner Minshew, Josh Dobbs, Phillip Walker
RBs: Leonard Fournette, Ryquell Armstead, Devine Ozigbo, Tyler Ervin
WRs: D.J. Chark, Dede Westbrook, Chris Conley, Keelan Cole, CJ Board, Marqise Lee
TEs: Josh Oliver, Seth DeValve, Ben Koyack, Geoff Swaim, James O'Shaughnessy
Kansas City ChiefsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 15 October 2019
According to Associated Press sports writer Dave Skretta, the first finger that Andy Reid points after the Kansas City Chiefs lose a game is at himself, regardless of the score, the opponent or whatever may have transpired on the field.
The coach willingly shoulders more than his share of the blame.
He probably deserved much of it Sunday.
The Chiefs lost 31-24 to the Texans, their second straight defeat at Arrowhead Stadium, and one that was punctuated by a laundry bin full of yellow flags, more dropped passes than in most Pop Warner games, and questionable decisions made by Reid all afternoon.
"I have to do a better job getting our team ready to go," he said, before anyone had a chance to ask a question. "We need to be more disciplined than what we saw with the penalties and drops and so on. We have a lot of things we need to work on here to get turned around. We have to do it better."
The Chiefs were penalized 11 times for 79 yards, three of which resulted in first downs. But they were actually flagged 16 times -- four were declined, another was offsetting -- one week after they had 11 penalties for 125 yards in a 19-13 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
So even though Reid was never called for holding, the penalty du jour on Sunday, the coaching staff clearly didn't do enough to stop the flow of flags from last week to this week.
"There are a bunch of things to look at," Reid said, "but penalties and time-of-possession, those are pretty big at this time. Taking advantage of turnovers -- we have to do a better job of taking advantage of turnovers, scoring touchdowns. That's my responsibility."
But while penalties and dropped passes and a myriad other mistakes can be chalked up to miscues or misfortune on behalf of the players, some questionable decisions fall directly on the head coach.
The first head-scratching set of events took place just before halftime.
Chiefs safety Juan Thornhill had just picked off Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson in the end zone to prevent points, and seemingly preserving a 17-16 halftime lead. But despite having just 23 seconds on the clock, and a quarterback hobbled by a sore ankle, the Chiefs called a pass play from their own 20.
Patrick Mahomes dropped back, the pocket quickly collapsed, and Texans defensive end Charles Omenihu reached out his paw and knocked the ball lose. Benardrick McKinney immediately pounced on the fumble, giving Houston the ball at the 3-yard line.
Watson scrambled in for a touchdown on the very next play to give Houston the lead.
"For us, how we feel and how we act as an offense is we're going to try to score every single drive," Mahomes said in defense of the play-calling. "There were some drives in the second half where we couldn't get going. We have to find ways to score when it's a close ballgame and at the end."
Indeed, there were more questionable calls in the third quarter, when Watson was again picked off in the end zone, this time by Charvarius Ward. The Chiefs led 24-23 at that point, but three consecutive pass plays fell incomplete and they were forced to punt the ball back to Houston.
Twelve plays, 93 yards and 8 1/2 minutes later, Watson scrambled in for his second TD run, and his 2-point conversion pass to DeAndre Hopkins gave the Texans a 31-24 lead with 6:17 to go.
Still, the Chiefs had an opportunity to march downfield for a tying touchdown. But a pass to LeSean McCoy was stopped for a loss, putting them in a second-and-14 and at their own 21-yard line. And rather than put the ball in the hands of the reigning league MVP, the Chiefs elected to run -- and McCoy went nowhere, earning a round of lusty boos from the antsy crowd in Arrowhead Stadium.
Mahomes proceeded to throw an incomplete pass on third down, the Chiefs punted yet again, and this time the Texans managed to drain the final 5:03 off the clock to preserve the victory.
"We did some good things," Reid said, "but we have to cut down on the penalties all the way around, whoever is making whatever. There were quite a few holding penalties there, on both sides of the ball.
We have to finish stronger," he added. "We have to do a better job all the way around."
Meanwhile, between leading the Chiefs in receiving, making a pair of touchdown catches and doing backflips after one of them, Tyreek Hill made a spectacular return to game action Sunday.
"It felt amazing," said Hill, who had missed the previous five games because of a sternum and right collarbone injury. "I'm thankful to be back on the field."
As outlined above, Sunday's loss was hardly the fault of Hill, who caught five passes for 80 yards and had the two scores.
One was of the spectacular variety that has become a Hill specialty. The 5-10 player showed his usual ability to track the deep ball by going up over two bigger defenders to make the catch near the goal line and make his way into the end zone to complete a 46-yard touchdown from Mahomes on the Chiefs' first possession of the game.
"That was Pat just trusting me," Hill said. "That was just me making a play for my quarterback. I'm going to do whatever it takes to make him look the best. That's my doll, my boy. If he throws it up, I tell each and every one of the receivers, that's our ball. It doesn't matter if there's five people around us or four or one, we're going to get the ball."
The Texans were offside on the play, and Mahomes took notice. He threw it deep for Hill despite the two defenders and wasn't surprised his receiver came down with the ball.
"That dude can jump out of the gym," Mahomes said. "If you've ever seen him dunking, he can jump up there and he can make plays.
"It was good to have him back. He played well today. He'll keep getting more and more back in the offense as we keep getting him back."
Hill later caught a 6-yard touchdown pass and then did backflips as part of his celebration.
That play gave Hill his fifth multi-touchdown receiving game since the start of the 2018 season. Entering Sunday, no other player had more than three such games in that period.
Hill played less than a full complement of snaps, a nod in part to his extended absence. The Chiefs also have a Thursday night game against the Broncos in Denver.
But Hill didn't appear limited when he was in the game.
"Not really," he said. "I played. Limited, full, I don't care. As long as I'm out there with my brothers, it [doesn't] matter. ..."
McCoy received 10 touches in 29 snaps, but otherwise the Chiefs seemed to ignore the running back position when McCoy wasn't on the field.
As SI.com's Matt Derrick notes, Damien Williams and Darrel Williams received just three touches in their combined 29 snaps, despite the pair of Williams backs generating 72 yards in those three plays. Reid and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy say the shift away from the run game resulted from run-pass options plays tilting toward the aerial attack, but that reliance on the passing game played a key factor in the lopsided loss in the time of possession battle. ...
On the injury front. ... The Chiefs, of course, didn't practice Monday, less than 24 hours after their game against the Texans. But if they had, the team estimates Mahomes would have fully practiced.
Mahomes has tweaked his ankle multiple times this season, and it's caused him to limp at times. But he has played 389 of a possible 398 offensive snaps in six games.
Sammy Watkins will not return to action against the Broncos.
The Chiefs released their final injury report ahead of Thursday’s game against the Broncos and it shows that Watkins will not play in the divisional matchup.
Four other Chiefs have also been ruled out. Left tackle Eric Fisher will miss his fifth straight game after having core muscle surgery and left guard Andrew Wylie is out for the second straight week due to a groin injury. Defensive tackle Chris Jones (groin) and cornerback Kendall Fuller (thumb) are out after getting hurt in the loss to Houston.
Cornerback Bashaud Breeland is the only other player on the injury report. He’s listed as questionable for non-injury reasons.
QBs: Patrick Mahomes, Matt Moore, Chad Henne
RBs: Damien Williams, LeSean McCoy, Darrel Williams, Darwin Thompson
WRs: Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Demarcus Robinson, Mecole Hardman, Byron Pringle
TEs: Travis Kelce, Blake Bell, Deon Yelder
Los Angeles ChargersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 15 October 2019
As ESPN.com's Eric D. Williams reported, the Los Angeles Chargers laid an egg against the Pittsburgh Steelers in a nationally televised game, falling 24-17 Sunday in a loss that wasn't as close as the score indicated.
Amid a sea of black-and-gold-clad Steelers fans and with a full moon hovering over the stadium, Philip Rivers and the Chargers' offense struggled once again in the opening half, failing to score points for a second straight game.
It's the first time since 1975 the Chargers have been held scoreless in the first half in back-to-back home games.
And once again the Chargers struggled in the kicking game, with Chase McLaughlin bouncing his 43-yard field goal attempt off the left upright and back into the field of play at the end of the first half.
How bad was it for the Chargers
Quarterback Tyrod Taylor warmed up in the second half, a sign that perhaps head coach Anthony Lynn was ready to pull the trigger and sit Rivers. However, Rivers did appear to have his back evaluated by trainers on the sideline after taking a big hit from Bud Dupree on the opening drive.
After struggling in the second half of their first three games, the Chargers have dug a hole for themselves with slow starts in the past two.
Over those two games, the Chargers have been outscored 38-0 in the first half. Rivers had two turnovers in the first half against the Steelers. They included a dump off to Melvin Gordon on a swing route that was behind him and ruled a backward pass that Steelers rookie linebacker Devin Bush returned 9 yards for a score on the second drive of the game. Bush also corralled a pass tipped by defensive lineman Tyson Alualu at the line of scrimmage for an interception.
James Conner turned that into points seven plays later on a 12-yard touchdown run. Rivers has turned it over seven times through six games. Rivers had only 13 turnovers last season.
Rivers finished 26-of-44 for 320 passing yards, with two touchdown passes to tight end Hunter Henry, two interceptions and one fumble. Rivers was sacked once, finishing with a 77.8 passer rating.
Henry started in his first game since suffering a left knee injury in the season opener against the Colts.
Rivers didn't waste time with getting Henry acclimated. The two connected for a 19-yard catch on the opening play of the game. Henry recorded career highs in targets (9), receptions (8) and yards (100), and grabbed two touchdowns. Henry's second touchdown cut the Steelers' lead to seven points with 1:29 left in regulation.
"Going into the game, I wasn't planning on playing 50, 60 snaps, but kinda how the game rolled," Henry said. "I was feeling really good. I felt really good tonight. ... Obviously, sore. Long game and I haven't played. When you're running up the field, you're pretty tired."
Henry missed the past four games because of the knee injury. He returned to practice this week and was a full participant for Friday's workout. Henry missed the entire regular season last year because of a torn ACL.
Henry was the lone bright spot for the Chargers' lackluster offense.
"It's pretty frustrating, but we have a lot of fight," Henry said. "Hopefully (the fourth-quarter rally) carries into these next couple weeks."
In general, Rivers never looked comfortable in the pocket and faced constant pressure most of the night.
He also struggled with questionable decision-making for a second straight game. Along with the two turnovers, Rivers also was called for intentional grounding for a second straight game.
The good news? At 2-4, the Chargers are only two games behind the AFC West-leading Kansas City Chiefs (4-2), who have also lost two straight. However, the Bolts have back-to-back road games against the Tennessee Titans and Chicago Bears before returning home to host the Green Bay Packers.
They could be out of playoff contention by then.
It would help if they could get the rushing game back on track.
The Chargers averaged 103.5 rushing yards per game over the first four weeks, but posted just 67 yards on the ground in their losses to the Broncos and Steelers. That coincides with Gordon's return to the lineup, but Lynn isn't pointing the finger in that direction when it comes to explaining the sluggish results.
"I don't think it has anything to do with Melvin," Lynn said, via the Los Angeles Times. "We've got to open up more running lanes. ... Everybody's got to be accountable for the man in, and those runners they really don't have a chance. So, we've got to do a better job up front."
It hasn't helped that the Chargers have lost center Mike Pouncey to a neck injury at a time when they're also without left tackle Russell Okung.
Pouncey is on injured reserve, but the team is hopeful to get some good news about Okung's recovery from a pulmonary embolism this week.
QBs: Philip Rivers, Tyrod Taylor, Easton Stick
RBs: Melvin Gordon, Austin Ekeler, Justin Jackson, Detrez Newsome, Troymaine Pope
WRs: Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Geremy Davis, Andre Patton, Dontrelle Inman, Travis Benjamin
TEs: Hunter Henry, Virgil Green, Lance Kendricks, Stephen Anderson
Los Angeles RamsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 15 October 2019
The San Francisco 49ers defeated the Los Angeles Rams 20-7 on Sunday, delivering the Rams their third consecutive loss of the season.
It's the first time since Sean McVay was hired as coach in 2017 that the Rams have lost three straight games. The skid comes a season after McVay led the Rams to an NFC championship and a Super Bowl appearance.
"Was it a humbling day for us? Absolutely," McVay said after the game. "But it's something that we're going to learn from. We're not going to let it demoralize us."
As ESPN.com's Lindsey Thiry noted, quarterback Jared Goff passed for a career-low 78 yards, completing 13 of 24 passes. He was sacked four times. Goff's previous low was set in 2016, his rookie season, when he passed for 90 yards in a 22-21 loss to the 49ers.
"It's a gut check," Goff said about the losing streak. "Are you who you say you are? I know who this team is. ... We're going to get right back on track."
The Rams played Sunday without running back Todd Gurley, cornerback Aqib Talib and outside linebacker Clay Matthews, who were all inactive because of injuries.
Running back Malcolm Brown started in place of Gurley and rushed for 40 yards on 11 carries. Rookie Darrell Henderson rushed for 39 yards on six carries. He also lost a fumble on the Rams opening drive of the second half.
The Rams took an early 7-0 lead on a 7-play drive, as Brown rushed for 40 yards on five carries and receiver Robert Woods rushed for 16 yards on 2 carries, including an 8-yard touchdown run.
But the 49ers scored 20 unanswered points behind a 2-yard touchdown run by Tevin Coleman and a 1-yard run by quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
The Rams had the chance to cut into the 49ers' 20-7 lead with 8:49 to play when defensive tackle Aaron Donald strip-sacked Garoppolo, and linebacker Cory Littleton recovered, then tossed a lateral to cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman, who stepped out of bounds at the 49ers' 36-yard line. But the Rams were unable to convert the takeaway into points, as they were stopped on fourth down.
"It goes back to the consistency I always talk about," Goff said. "It's something we are struggling with offensively."
"This is tough," said Woods, who did not record a single catch. "We're competing, battling, going out there and just not executing."
The Rams went 0-for-9 on third down. It was their first game without a third-down conversion since they went 0-for-11 against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sept. 7, 2008.
And their offensive inefficiencies didn't stop there. The Rams also went 0-for-3 on fourth down. The last time they went for it on fourth down at least three times with no conversions was against the Seahawks on Dec. 15, 2016, when they went 0-for-4.
"We came out and started fast, but it comes down to consistency," Woods said. "We look like a good offense sometimes, look like a bad offense. Just not being consistent."
Rams left guard Joe Noteboom left the game in the first quarter because of a knee injury, and safety John Johnson was sidelined in the second half because of a shoulder injury.
The Rams were upset in Week 4 by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 55-40, then fell to the Seattle Seahawks 30-29 after Greg Zuerlein's 44-yard field goal attempt missed wide right with 15 seconds to play in Week 5.
The Rams (3-3) are in third place in the NFC West behind the 49ers (5-0) and Seahawks (5-1), putting their run at a third consecutive division title in jeopardy.
"I trust that this is a mentally tough team," McVay said. "We have mentally tough people in our building. This is a real opportunity to be what we say we are, and we are just going to go to work. We are going to stay together. We're not going to let the outside influences create a divide with us."
The Rams now will play a host of teams with losing records as they travel away from the Coliseum for the next month. They are scheduled to take on the Atlanta Falcons (1-5) next Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, then will travel to London to play the Cincinnati Bengals (0-6) in Week 8 before a Week 9 bye.
In Week 10, the Rams return to the East Coast to play the Pittsburgh Steelers (1-4).
On a more positive note. ... The Rams hope to have Gurley back this week.
The injury occurred in the Rams' Week 5 Thursday night tilt against Seattle and carried over the entire week. The Rams hope the issue clears up after a week's rest.
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported Monday that it's a week-to-week situation with Gurley.
"He is not ruled out for this week. He does have a chance to go," Rapoport said. "Not considered something long, long term."
One issue for Gurley is that the thigh injury is on the same leg as the knee issue that the running back dealt with dating back to last season, which is why stability is part of the concern that caused the Rams to hold him out Sunday.
His situation will be one to monitor as the week presses forward.
The same goes for Brown, who came out of Sunday's game with an ankle injury.
Watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more on both backs in coming days. ...
The Rams made waves on the other side of the ball on Tuesday, by acquiring Jalen Ramsey from the Jaguars.
Jacksonville is sending the disgruntled star cornerback to Los Angeles for two first-round draft picks (2020 and 2021) and a fourth-round pick in 2021.
It's quite a haul for the Jaguars, and also quite a coup for a cornerback-needy Rams squad that earlier Tuesday dealt Marcus Peters to the Ravens one day after placing Aqib Talib on injured reserves. The Peters trade left people wondering what other move general manager Les Snead had up his sleeve to shore up a suddenly thin secondary.
Now we have our answer. ...
Meanwhile, on a less positive note. ... McVay announced left guard Joe Noteboom will undergo season-ending surgery after tearing the ACL and MCL in his right knee.
Noteboom's injury leaves the Rams thin on the offensive line.
"That's a big loss," McVay said about the first-year starter. "He made a lot of progress in the early stages of this season."
Offensive guard Jamil Demby replaced Noteboom after he was sidelined against the 49ers, but the Rams also traded for Cleveland offensive lineman Austin Corbett on Tuesday.
Corbett was the first pick of the second round of the 2018 draft, but he has not been able to find a home in Cleveland's starting lineup. He made one start in 11 appearances last season and has only played one offensive snap this year.
The Browns list Corbett as a center, but he's seen time at various spots along the offensive line in college and the pros. The Rams will be hoping a change of scenery and scheme will help him find a home at one of them in Los Angeles.
QBs: Jared Goff, Blake Bortles
RBs: Todd Gurley, Malcolm Brown, Darrell Henderson
WRs: Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, Josh Reynolds, JoJo Natson, Mike Thomas, Nsimba Webster, Brandin Cooks
TEs: Gerald Everett, Tyler Higbee, Johnny Mundt
Miami DolphinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 15 October 2019
For Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Miami Dolphins, a last-second defeat meant progress.
Miami lost 17-16 to the Washington Redskins on Sunday when Fitzpatrick's 2-point conversion pass was dropped in the flat by running back Kenyan Drake.
The Dolphins (0-5) remained winless under rookie coach Brian Flores, while the Redskins (1-5) earned their first victory.
Still, it could have been worse -- and often has been for the 2019 Dolphins.
"Moral victory -- I don't know if we believe in those," Fitzpatrick said. "But it's much more fun to be involved in a game like this than one when you look up and you're losing by 40-plus points."
In succession the Dolphins have been beaten by 49 points, 43, 25, 20 and 1. The latest loss was a close call because of Fitzpatrick, who replaced Josh Rosen at the start of the fourth quarter with Miami trailing 17-3.
Fitzpatrick -- known as FitzMagic because of his knack for the improbable even as a journeyman -- led touchdown marches of 55 and 75 yards, with the second drive coming in the final 2:02. He threw for 132 yards in one quarter, with no sacks or interceptions, while Rosen threw for 85 yards in three quarters, with five sacks and two interceptions.
Rosen had no quarrel with being yanked by Flores.
"I've definitely got to get better," Rosen said. 'Flo's' job first and foremost is to win football games and I respect the decision. It's my job to not put him in that position."
Flores switched from Fitzpatrick to Rosen as his No. 1 QB after Week 2. He said the Dolphins wanted to find out whether Rosen is a potential franchise quarterback.
Neither Rosen, 22, nor Fitzpatrick, 36, has any complaint about how Flores is handling the quarterback situation.
"Above my pay grade," Rosen said.
"Whatever my role is, I'm going to try to do it to the best of my ability," Fitzpatrick said.
In week 7, Fitzpatrick’s role will be starter.
That news comes a week after Flores declared that Rosen was the starter for the rest of the. Flores then left the door open for another switch back to Fitzpatrick, but at the time he said that would be based on “what happens this week in practice.”
Now Flores has gone back to Fitzpatrick on Wednesday morning, not after a week of practice.
How long Fitzpatrick keeps the job remains to be seen, and give the decisions Flores has made so far, this decision has to be considered subject to change.
But for now, Fitzpatrick is the starter.
In Rosen's defense, he had little help, getting blasted repeatedly behind an awful offensive line, taking five sacks, including four in the first quarter. The quarterback often didn't trust protection, dropping his eyes repeatedly.
Rosen completed one pass of more than five air yards on seven attempts with two INTs through three quarters, per Next Gen Stats.
Rosen was sent to the bench after completing 15 of 25 passes for 85 yards -- 3.4 yards per attempt -- with two interceptions and a 32.9 passer rating. As ESPN.com's Cameron Wolfe characterized them, Rosen's two INTs were both "brutal."
The first came on a slant that was well-covered and looked like a predetermined throw from Rosen. On the second, the QB forced a ball between multiple defenders that was picked. Blame the offensive line or the lack of skill-position help, but Rosen hasn't been able to raise his plays to overcome the poor circumstances.
Rosen recorded a Total QBR of 2.1 today, the second-worst QBR game of the season (behind Luke Falk, Week 5).
The Dolphins went into their two-minute offense with Fitzpatrick, and the Redskins dialed back their pass rush.
"He's an experienced vet -- a salty, savvy veteran coming in late in the game," Redskins interim coach Bill Callahan said. "He came in there very cool and proceeded to obviously take advantage of some of our coverages."
The Dolphins' touchdowns were only their third and fourth this season, and their first points after halftime all year. From the sideline, Rosen applauded the increase in productivity.
"As a team, this is a step in the right direction," Rosen said. "Personally, I may not say the same. Take it on the chin and continue to improve. ..."
The Dolphins have scored 42 points this season. Despite the sudden display of offense late Sunday, they're on pace for only 134 points, which would be the fewest by any team in a 16-game season. ...
Worth noting: The Dolphins have had the same five starters in the offensive line in consecutive games only once this year, and the shuffling -- along with lack of talent -- showed again Sunday.
Rosen was sacked four times in Miami's first 11 plays and often harried after that. ...
Running back Mark Walton made his first NFL start and totaled 75 yards rushing and receiving.
Walton was drafted in the fourth round in 2018 by the Cincinnati Bengals, and they released him after he was arrested three times last offseason in his hometown of Miami. The Dolphins signed him in May, and he played 32 of their 76 offensive snaps against Washington.
On the injury front. ... Flores said he's hopeful cornerback Xavien Howard will play at Buffalo after missing Sunday's game because of a sore knee. Center Daniel Kilgore missed the final play with an unspecified injury. Defensive end Avery Moss hurt his ankle and was in a walking boot after the game, and the injury might be season-ending.
Jakeem Grant (hamstring) also missed Sunday's game; I'll have more on his status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh Rosen
RBs: Kalen Ballage, Myles Gaskin, Patrick Laird, Mark Walton
WRs: DeVante Parker, Albert Wilson, Jakeem Grant, Allen Hurns, Preston Williams
TEs: Mike Gesicki, Nick O'Leary, Durham Smythe, Chris Myarick
Minnesota VikingsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 15 October 2019
Two weeks after frustrations between Stefon Diggs and the Vikings' offense headlined the NFL news cycle, the receiver was in perfect harmony with quarterback Kirk Cousins in Minnesota's 38-20 win over the Philadelphia Eagles.
Cousins and Diggs connected on three touchdowns, which set a new career-high for the 25-year-old wideout, and they did so by igniting the deep-ball. The Vikings quarterback routinely picked apart the Eagles' porous pass defense, connecting with Diggs on back-to-back drives in the second quarter which resulted in 62-yard and 51-yard touchdown plays, respectively. On both plays, Diggs burned Eagles cornerback Rasul Douglas, who he was matched up with on the outside.
As ESPN.com's Courtney Cronin noted, Cousins was 2-of-4 passing with two passing touchdowns of throws that traveled 30-plus air yards down field on Sunday. He was 1-of-5 with a touchdown on such throws in the Vikings' first five games of the season. Diggs became the first Vikings player to haul in two TD passes of 50-plus yards in a single game since Randy Moss achieved that feat against Detroit in Week 5 of the 2000 season.
After a quiet start to the season fueled speculation over Diggs' contentment with his role and rumors -- which he did not fully dispel -- over wanting out of Minnesota, the receiver credits staying patient and prepared for being able to capitalize when more targets came his way.
"I just look at it as in control what you can control, move forward that way," Diggs said.
"The more comfortable you are out there getting into a rhythm, especially at the quarterback position, completing those passes and getting into a rhythm is huge. As a receiver, you want the same thing as far as catching a couple passes, getting a couple ones out of the way and then you can start feeling more comfortable and feeling the game. I feel like the more opportunities you make, you start feeling the game more."
Diggs' seven catches for 167 yards and three TDs, including a third quarter back-of-the-end zone score, sparked Minnesota's passing attack in ways that hadn't been seen in the Vikings' five previous games. Head coach Mike Zimmer credits "pretty darned good" protection from the offensive line (Cousins was sacked just once Sunday) and an aggressive mindset as the catalyst on offense.
"(Diggs) got the ball a few more times," Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. "They left him singled a few times -- the safety came out of the middle a few times and gave us some opportunities. Kirk made a great throw on it, too."
Cousins completed 22 of 29 passes for 333 yards, four touchdowns, one interception and a 138.4 passer rating. Late last week, the quarterback was called out for his struggles by former teammate and current Eagles linebacker Zach Brown.
"Cousins, I think every defense is going to want that guy to throw the ball," said Brown, who was teammates with the QB in Washington in 2017. "For me, that's probably the weakest part of their offense, is him. Everything else is good. They've got a good running game, probably one of the best in the league. They have real good receivers."
The Eagles, down to their second and third-string corners, don't leave U.S. Bank Stadium echoing the same sentiments about Cousins, who helped the Vikings earn their second-straight win against a team considered among the favorites in the NFC.
After the game, Brown was asked to comment on Cousins.
"I'm here to talk about the game. Not about that," he said.
Pressed further, he said: "Any other questions besides about Kirk Cousins?" before finally relenting and saying: "He did a good job. He played good. Hat's off to him."
While Zimmer suggested that Brown's comments may have "ticked off" Cousins, the quarterback said he wasn't aware of the criticisms until he was asked for his reaction in an on-field postgame interview.
"I didn't even know what he said," Cousins said. "I really do stay ignorant, not read anything, and that's for my best interest. But Zach was a teammate in Washington. He's one of the better linebackers I've played with or against. Have a lot of respect for him, and if you're trying to write a story about how it was a motivator this week, it wasn't, because I didn't know about it. Again, I say ignorance is bliss. I just put my head down and work and prepare the same every week and not try to ride the roller coaster."
Sunday marked the third time in Cousins career where he threw three touchdown passes in the first half of a game. The quarterback opened the first quarter by connecting with Adam Thielen for a 6-yard touchdown to cap off Minnesota's first drive. In the first five weeks of the season, Cousins threw three touchdowns total in the first half of games.
"He's been the same quarterback," Diggs said. "I guess Kirk answered all your questions. He went out there, he played his balls off and did everything he did. Putting that behind you, because every game is a statement game if that's the case. You're going to have to check the boxes every week and that's what we're trying to do."
Thielen, who also voiced his displeasure with Cousins' lack of passing and the offensive woes, added the above-mentioned TD and 57 yards receiving.
Perhaps it's because they were facing a depleted Eagles D, but the Vikings' offense looked like a well-oiled machine as they cruised to 4-2. Sunday's tilt showed the emergence of rookie running back Alexander Mattison. The 2019 third-rounder galloped to 63 yards on 14 carries, proving he can be a solid option to spell Dalvin Cook, the league's second-leading rusher.
QBs: Kirk Cousins, Sean Mannion
RBs: Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, Mike Boone, Ameer Abdullah
WRs: Stefon Diggs, Olabisi Johnson, Laquon Treadwell, Chad Beebe, Davion Davis, Adam Thielen
TEs: Kyle Rudolph, Irv Smith Jr., Brandon Dillon, Tyler Conklin
New England PatriotsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 15 October 2019
As Associated Press sports writer Kyle Hightower reported it, try as he might, Tom Brady appeared to be a little stumped when he was asked the question that continues to hover over the Patriots following their latest victory.
Has the offense been good enough this season?
"We'll see," Brady said before pausing for a few seconds. "We're 6-0, so try to get to 7-0."
It was a perfectly neutral answer about a unit that clearly has things to clean up after needing a big effort from the defense to secure a 35-14 win over the Giants on Thursday night.
The Patriots have had to make several adjustments on offense already this season with starting center David Andrews (blood clots), left tackle Isaiah Wynn (foot) and fullback James Develin (neck) all currently on injured reserve. They also entered Thursday missing running back Rex Burkhead (foot) and receiver Phillip Dorsett (hamstring), both inactive.
The Patriots wound up having to make even more changes on the fly during the game.
Receiver Josh Gordon left in the second quarter with a left knee injury when he tried to tackle Giants linebacker Markus Golden during his 42-yard fumble return for a touchdown. Gordon got caught under a tangle of players and had his left leg pinned underneath him. He needed assistance as he limped off the field and did not return.
After tight end Matt LaCosse (knee) and fullback Jakob Johnson (shoulder) also left the game with injuries, the Patriots mostly stuck to a formation featuring one running back, one tight end and three receivers, also known as an "11" personnel grouping.
Johnson was placed on injured reserve Monday.
In the passing game it meant more snaps for rookie receivers Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski. Meyers caught four passes for 54 yards and Olszewski had two catches for 34 yards.
Brady finished with his second straight 300-yard game, but he's also been sacked seven times in two games and has thrown two of his three interceptions in those games. One of the sacks on Thursday ended in Golden's scoop-and-score return.
Brady said he hopes the extra snaps will benefit the young receivers going forward, particularly as they get more comfortable in the playbook.
"I always said when I was young, I just was trying to be on time and not forget my playbook anywhere. These guys are kind of in a different role than that. They're playing in games and contributing," Brady said. "That's what we needed. Anyone who's on the active roster has to be ready to go. So, it was just good for those guys to catch some balls and gain some confidence."
The good news for New England's entire offense is it has 10 days to tend to its issues before visiting the struggling New York Jets (0-4).
"It is a game of adversity and something that we were prepared for," receiver Julian Edelman said of the limitations the Patriots are having to confront. "It wasn't as pretty as we wanted it, but we were able to get it done. Hats off to defense and special teams for once again doing unbelievable things. We just have to hold our bargain up more."
Meanwhile, the defense forced four more turnovers against the Giants, bringing its total to 16 (14 interceptions, two fumble recoveries). Linebacker Kyle Van Noy's 22-yard fumble return for a score was the defense's third touchdown this season. The Patriots surrendered their first passing touchdown of the season, but still have only allowed three touchdowns (two rushing, one passing) in 2019.
The Patriots now have five non-offensive touchdowns. They returned two blocked punts for touchdowns and have two interceptions and a fumble return for scores. The team record for most non-offensive touchdowns in a season is nine in 1961 and 2010.
The Patriots visit the New York Jets (0-4) on Monday night for their second matchup of the season. New England beat the Jets 30-14 last month. ...
New England Patriots got mostly good news for their battered receiving corps Tuesday as both Dorsett and rookie N'Keal Harry returned to practice while wideout Gordon remained sidelined.
When Dorsett missed last Thursday's win there was optimism at the time that he would only miss one game. The speedy Dorsett has been a favorite target for Tom Brady in the post-Antonio Brown era, catching 15 passes for 197 yards and three touchdowns,
Gordon injured his knee early against the Giants, but it's not considered serious. He has an extra 24 hours to heal before Monday's game at the Jets.
I'll be following up on Gordon, Dorsett and Burkhead in coming days; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ...
Harry, the Patriots' first-round pick in this year's draft out of Arizona State, has yet to play this season after an injury-riddled training camp but was officially designated as New England's first player to return from injured reserve. He cannot play for another two weeks in accordance with league policy so the first time he could potentially suit up would be Week 9.
Asked how Harry is progressing, Belichick said simply, "We hope he'll be ready to go."
The coach added: "Physically, he needs to be able to show he can go out there and participate competitively at the practice level that we're at. Hopefully that's where he'll be..."
Harry flashed some intriguing potential in spring practices and training camp, and though missing time through the first half of the season isn't ideal, he was a first-round pick for a reason. He could play a prominent role for the Patriots in the second half of the season.
Meanwhile, the Pats are re-signing veteran tight end Ben Watson.
New England released Watson last week after he was set to return from suspension. At the time coach Bill Belichick cited the lack of a roster spot as the reason for releasing Watson. Injuries and inconsistent play at the position have altered the situation.
In fact, LaCosse sprained his MCL and is expected to miss at least a few weeks.
The 38-year-old Watson has insisted he wanted to continue playing if he found the right landing spot. It turns out he just had to wait a week to be welcomed back to Foxboro with open arms.
The Pats could use Watson's pass-catching ability and any blocking the veteran could provide after watching Ryan Izzo and LaCosse struggle.
Last season with New Orleans, Watson generated 400 yards on 35 receptions with two TDs. In addition to Watson, the Patriots added tight end Eric Tomlinson to their roster as well.
The Patriots needed to make room for Tomlinson and Watson, and quarterback Cody Kessler is one of those corresponding moves. The Patriots cut Kessler. ...
As for that other former Pats TE that is on everyone's mind, Tom Brady said Monday on WEEI, he's not in the business of trying to coax Rob Gronkowski, who recently took a job as a FOX analyst, out of retirement.
"I love that guy. I'm so happy that he's enjoying his time, his life. He seems to really be doing a lot of great things. He knows how I feel about him. I want what's best for him. He's the only person that can make those decisions. I don't lobby for those things," Brady said Monday, via ESPN.
Instead of trying to lure Gronk out of retirement, Brady will get back to throwing passes to Watson. ...
The Patriots decided on Mike Nugent to replace the injured Stephen Gostkowski, but after two weeks, they’re already looking around.
Via Albert Breer of SI.com, the Patriots worked out four kickers and a punter Tuesday.
Those auditioning included kickers Nick Folk, Greg Joseph, Austin MacGinnis, and Giorgio Tavecchio, along with punter Austin Rehkow
Nugent missed his lone field goal attempt last week, and missed an extra point attempt in his Patriots debut. ...
And finally. ... Defensive lineman Michael Bennett was not spotted at Patriots practice on Tuesday and the reason for his absence came to light later in the day.
Bennett has been suspended one game for conduct detrimental to the team. Nick Underhill of the Athletic.com reports that Bennett aired his displeasure with his role on defense to the coaching staff last week and Bennett confirmed that such a conversation was behind the disciplinary action.
"On Friday, I had a philosophical disagreement with my position coach that has led to my suspension. I apologize to my teammates for any distraction this may have caused," Bennett told Jordan Schultz of ESPN.
QBs: Tom Brady, Jarrett Stidham, Cody Kessler
RBs: Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, Damien Harris, Brandon Bolden
WRs: Julian Edelman, Mohamed Sanu, N'Keal Harry, Phillip Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski
TEs: Ben Watson, Eric Tomlinson, Ryan Izzo, Matt LaCosse
New Orleans SaintsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 15 October 2019
According to Associated Press sports writer Mark Long, Teddy Bridgewater probably should have had another multi-touchdown day for the New Orleans Saints.
He'll gladly settle for remaining unbeaten as the starter.
Bridgewater missed wide-open receivers Michael Thomas and Ted Ginn for would-be scores in the 13-6 victory Sunday, two of just a handful of mistakes for the backup quarterback.
Bridgewater was on target when it mattered most, connecting with Jared Cook for a 4-yard touchdown on a third-and-4 play early in the fourth quarter and improving to 4-0 in place of injured star Drew Brees.
"We had a couple struggles early in the game, but great teams always try to find a way to win each football game," Bridgewater said.
Bridgewater closed out the victory by gaining 2 yards on a quarterback sneak just after the two-minute warning.
Coming off a 300-yard, four-touchdown performance against Tampa Bay, Bridgewater was less effective against the Jaguars (2-4). But he did enough for New Orleans' defense, which turned Minshew Mania into mush.
The unit sacked Minshew twice, kept him from scrambling and took away his top target. Minshew completed 14 of 29 passes for 163 yards and an interception.
"I told our defense I felt like if they played eight quarters they were not going to score a touchdown today," head coach Sean Payton said.
Bridgewater was considerably more efficient than Minshew, finishing 24 of 36 passing for 240 yards.
Thomas caught eight passes for 89 yards and Cook finished with three receptions for 37 yards.
Running back Alvin Kamara was limited because of an ankle injury and left the game late after tweaking a knee.
As NFL.com's Michael Baca reminded readers, the play-making running back went onto the game as questionable, and although Kamara played through the pain, it certainly looked like it affected his play.
On Tuesday, we learned more.
Kamara has a "high ankle-type issue" that will limit him in practice this week, Tom Pelissero of NFL Network reports.
Kamara still has hope of playing Sunday against the Bears, Pelissero adds.
Kamara played 39 of 66 offensive snaps against the Jaguars.
He had 11 carries for only 31 yards and seven catches for 35 yards, but he would eventually get out-shined by Latavius Murray, who was seen as often in the backfield once Kamara hobbled to the sideline after the opening drive.
Murray ran the ball eight times for 44 yards and caught three for 35 yards, but could've had a bigger day had Thomas not been flagged for a holding penalty that brought back his 42-yard catch-and-run for a TD. Kamara finished the game and ran hard once seeing the open field, but it wasn't the normal type of explosiveness we've seen from the dynamic playmaker.
Kamara finished with 31 yards on 11 carries to go along with seven catches for 35 yards.
"We know that when we're out there playing it's going to take all 11 guys on the football field to win these football games," Bridgewater said.
I'll be obviously be following Kamara's progress closely in coming days; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for the latest. ...
It's probably worth noting, however, the Saints signed free agent RB Zach Zenner as insurance in case Kamara can’t go. Zenner was with QB coach Joe Lombardi with the Lions.
The Saints are releasing linebacker Stephone Anthony in a corresponding move. ...
The Saints (5-1), who play at Chicago this week, have won games a variety of ways since Brees went down with a thumb injury in Week 2. They beat Dallas and Jacksonville with defensive gems and outscored Seattle and Tampa Bay.
"Each week we just talk about how do we win that game," Payton said. "Honestly, in a week or two weeks from now, we're not going to look specifically to how we win certain games. Hopefully, we're going to learn and get better from how we won. The key is understanding wins in our league."
Bridgewater hasn't put the offense on his back. He hasn't had to, either. But he's been fairly consistent and played mostly turnover-free football.
"I'm definitely getting comfortable just with all the guys," Bridgewater said. "We work extremely hard throughout the week just trying to continue to build that chemistry. ... It's good to just continue to get those guys involved and they help this team win football games. ..."
One certainty: There won't be any QB controversy heading into Chicago, even though dual-threat backup Taysom Hill did provide one of the game's biggest moments with a 19-yard run on third down late in the game.
Kicker Wil Lutz also continued to deliver. He tied Rian Lindell's NFL record by making 34 consecutive field goals on the road, per the Elias Sports Bureau. ...
And finally. ... Cornerback P.J. Williams has been suspended by the league for a violation of the league's substance abuse policy.
Williams was arrested in January and booked on charges of booked on charges of driving while intoxicated, speeding, failing to use turn signals and improperly using a traffic lane. He later pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of reckless operation of a motor vehicle. Williams was ordered to pay a $340 fine.
The Saints started Williams in five of their six games this season and he's played over 80 percent of the team's defensive snaps. Marshon Lattimore and Eli Apple will remain the top corners in New Orleans with Patrick Robinson, Ken Crawley and Justin Hardee as options to join them in the lineup.
QBs: Teddy Bridgewater, Taysom Hill, Drew Brees
RBs: Alvin Kamara, Latavius Murray, Dwayne Washington
WRs: Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn, Tre'quan Smith, Austin Carr, Deonte Harris, Emmanuel Butler
TEs: Jared Cook, Josh Hill
New York GiantsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 15 October 2019
Getting beaten by 21 points in a game filled with major mistakes might not be a reason for optimism for most teams.
It is for the New York Giants (2-4) despite the refusal of players and coaches to admit it following a 35-14 loss to the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots (6-0) Thursday night.
For a team that was playing without its top two halfbacks, one of the league's best tight ends and its most consistent wide receiver, New York gave the Patriots all they could handle for three-plus quarters. The game was not broken open until rookie running back Jon Hilliman lost a fumble and Kyle Van Noy returned it for a touchdown.
In a game when they were 16½-point underdogs, the Giants were competitive. That is what co-owner John Mara wanted coming into the season after two bad years and eight total wins.
The goal now is to build off that.
Hilliman won't get the chance. He was waived Friday after losing his second fumble in three games. Former Raven and Saint Javorius Allen was signed.
Hopefully, however, they'll get back the player we're all much more interested in: Saquon Barkley.
Two weeks ago, he was running and changing direction, and last week he was even able to take some limited practice reps during a session that was said to be held at partial speed.
Barkley was injured in the Week 3 win over the Bucs, and reports initially projected that he'd miss anywhere from four to eight weeks.
If he is cleared to return this Sunday against the Cardinals, even if it's for a partial workload of game snaps, Barkley will have missed just three weeks with his injury.
He was obvious missed in New England.
Daniel Jones and the banged-up offense gained 213 yards against the Patriots.
The running game was held to 52 yards on 16 carries, Hilliman and Eli Penny getting most of the carries with Barkley and Wayne Gallman (concussion) out. Jones completed 15 of 31 passes for 161 yards, with 64 coming on a touchdown pass to Golden Tate III. Time of possession was 20:24.
After replacing Eli Manning and engineering a two-game winning streak, Jones has looked more like a rookie the past two games. The No. 6 overall pick has thrown four interceptions, the Giants have scored 24 points combined and the offense has averaged 212 yards.
No doubt the offense missed Barkley, tight end Evan Engram and receiver Sterling Shepard last Thursday.
Jones is making mistakes New York can't afford.
The good news? It looks like running back Barkleys absence from the Giants backfield is nearing its end.
Head coach Pat Shurmur said that Barkley was a full participant in practice Wednesday. Shurmur stopped short of saying Barkley will play against the Cardinals, but that’s where things appear to be heading as long as Barkley doesn’t aggravate the injury.
It also looks like the Giants will get tight end Engram back from his knee injury.
The outlook is less positive for Shepard and Gallman as both players remain in the protocol. Shurmur also said that cornerback Corey Ballentine has been put into the protocol after reporting concussion symptoms.
Engram said that he is continuing to be smart and take small steps to get back on track. He was not at full speed Monday, but he still got in some good reps and felt comfortable doing all of the drills he was permitted to participate in today.
Before his injury, Engram was posting team-leading numbers for the Giants. In five games this season, Engram has 33 receptions for 373 yards and two touchdowns and averages 11.3 receiving yards per catch.
In his third NFL season, Engram is on track to finish with career highs that would top his 45 receptions for 577 yards in 11 games from last year.
Though Engram wants to keep his momentum going, he is most concerned about returning to the field to help his teammates.
"I just want to be out there for my team every week that I can," Engram said. "So it's definitely going to be important this week to just continue to work, continue to be smart, and getting ready."
The Giants (2-4) and in third place in the NFC East, are breathing down the necks of the second-place Eagles and first-place Cowboys, both 3-3, but Engram is only focused on one game at a time moving forward.
"We're trying to go 1-0 this week," Engram said. "If we stay focused on where our feet are, I think we'll be good."
Of all the injured Giants, Shepard seems the furthest from readiness, but getting any amount of help will be welcome news for Jones.
Even this help: According to Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News, the Giants are bringing back wideout Bennie Fowler.
He caught 12 passes for 99 yards the first month of the season, while Tate was absent.
Meanwhile, I'll obviously be following up on Barkley, Engram and Shepard in coming days; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more.
QBs: Daniel Jones, Eli Manning, Alex Tanney
RBs: Saquon Barkley, Wayne Gallman, Javorius Allen, Elijhaa Penny, Austin Walter
WRs: Golden Tate, Cody Latimer, Cody Core, Darius Slayton, Sterling Shepard
TEs: Rhett Ellison, Garrett Dickerson, Kaden Smith, Evan Engram
New York JetsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 15 October 2019
The New York Jets held on to win their first game of the season, 24-22 over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday at MetLife Stadium, energized by the return of quarterback Sam Darnold from his bout with mono.
Darnold passed for 338 yards, two touchdowns and gave the Jets (1-4) an NFL-caliber offense, which they lacked in his three-game absence, and provided hope as they prepare for a schedule that softens in November.
Playing with plastic protection over his previously enlarged spleen, Darnold orchestrated three touchdown drives in the first half, including a 92-yard scoring pass to Robby Anderson.
Some context: The Jets had only two offensive touchdowns in the first four games, the last 2 1/2 with former third-stringer Luke Falk at quarterback.
Quarterback play matters in this league -- a lot. Darnold made head coach Adam Gase look smart, as the Jets jumped to 21-3 lead. He connected with seven different receivers, showing his ability to see the entire field -- something Falk failed to do. If he was rusty or out of shape from the long layoff, it didn't show.
A few days ago, offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said, "Sam is not a magic wand." On Sunday, he proved he was.
"I mean, sh--!," Pro Bowl safety Jamal Adams said, via the New York Daily News. "He did a damn good job! Obviously, we have a lot of faith in Sam."
Darnold completed 23 of 32 passes for 338 yards, two touchdowns, one interception, and a 113.8 passer rating.
"We knew that with Sam back, he was going to move the ball," Adams said. "Sam wasn't drafted in the top five for no reason. He's a hell of a quarterback, a hell of a leader and hell of a competitor."
The difference between the Jets' offense with Darnold and Falk under center was stark. Darnold's deft pocket mobility and ability to make accurate throws off awkward platforms allows the offense to function behind a less than ideal offensive line. Plays that went for easy sacks while Darnold was out with mono turned into first downs Sunday.
"It's a lot different having your guy in there," said Le'Veon Bell, who rushed for 50 yards and a touchdown. "He's the leader of the offense. ... When you miss that for a few weeks, it's tough. ... I said he wasn't rusty in practice. I watched him. He's a special player."
Darnold generated his 19th and 20th career passing TD in his 15th career start, the second-most pass TDs in a QB's first 15 career games in Jets history behind only Hall of Famer Joe Namath (23), per NFL Research.
With Darnold back, the Jets' offense was finally able to stretch the field vertically, putting pressure on the defense. Anderson's 92-yard TD catch underscored the difference Darnold makes.
"It was amazing to have my brother back out there," Anderson said. "It makes a big difference."
The Jets still sit at 1-4, but they've got the first win of the Gase era out of the way. With Darnold back, they can start to build for the future with the stud signal-caller.
"We were starving for a win," Darnold said. "To come out here and do it in the fashion that we did (with) the defense getting a huge stop on the two-point conversion. I wouldn't want it any other way."
Next up, the Jets host undefeated AFC East rival New England Patriots Monday night.
For the record, Darnold was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week on Tuesday. ...
One last note here. ... It's unclear if tight end Chris Herndon will be playing for the Jets this week, but they still added him to the active roster on Monday.
Herndon got a roster exemption after his four-game suspension came to an end last week and the team announced his activation before it expired on Monday afternoon. Linebacker Frankie Luvu was waived in a corresponding move.
Herndon probably would have been activated last week had he been healthy. A hamstring injury suffered while working out on his own ahead of his return to the team kept him from playing, however.
Reports have indicated that it might be at least one more week before he's ready to go, but Gase didn't rule the second-year tight end out for the Jets' game against the Patriots during his Monday press conference.
QBs: Sam Darnold, David Fales
RBs: Le'Veon Bell, Ty Montgomery, Trenton Cannon, Bilal Powell, Josh Adams
WRs: Robby Anderson, Jamison Crowder, Demaryius Thomas, Tim White, Braxton Berrios, Josh Bellamy
TEs: Chris Herndon, Ryan Griffin, Trevon Wesco, Daniel Brown
Oakland RaidersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 15 October 2019
After starting a 48-day stretch without a true home game with another lopsided loss in Minnesota, the Raiders looked destined for yet another losing season.
Head coach Jon Gruden's team responded well instead of spiraling out of control and put together the best back-to-back games since he returned to the sideline last season.
Now the Raiders (3-2) head into their bye week full of confidence and in the thick of the playoff race after following up an upset win at Indianapolis with an even more impressive performance in London against the Chicago Bears.
"We're building our team. That's all I'm going to say," Gruden said. "We're not making any other statements other than that. We like the progress. We like the development of some young guys."
As Associated Press sports writer Josh Dubow reminded readers, season that began in the turmoil surrounding star receiver Antonio Brown, who was released two days before the opener, and then featured back-to-back lopsided losses to Kansas City and Minnesota that were all too reminiscent of Gruden's first season back in Oakland, now seems to be headed in the right direction.
The moves made by Gruden and first-year general manager Mike Mayock are paying dividends with expensive free agent acquisitions such as right tackle Trent Brown, receiver Tyrell Williams and defensive back Lamarcus Joyner are all making big contributions, oft-troubled guard Richie Incognito has been mostly on his best behavior and has fueled a strong running game and several rookies are playing major roles.
That youth movement was on full display during the go-ahead, 97-yard TD drive in the 24-21 win over the Bears last week. First-round running back Josh Jacobs started it off with a 15-yard run and had 33 yards on the ground, including the 2-yard TD to cap it.
Fourth-round tight end Foster Moreau caught three passes for 41 yards in the drive and fifth-round receiver Hunter Renfrow converted another first down with a 12-yard catch.
Throw in a strong blocking game from undrafted rookie fullback Alec Ingold, a sack by first-year defensive end Maxx Crosby and solid performances from second-year players such as Kolton Miller and Maurice Hurst, and it appears as if a foundation for success is being built.
"I think we just have a mature, young football team, to be honest," quarterback Derek Carr said. "Our young guys are really talented. It's really nice to have that. We're a better football team this year than we were last year. Coach built a solid foundation. I just want to win. But the cool thing about it now is I could see it last year, we're going to be awesome, I know it. I know we'll be able to play in big games and beat people. That said, no one else believed him, except the people in our building and that's all that matters. I think it's carried over since last year. I think it will continue to grow."
Gruden's first year back was a rough one as the Raiders traded away former building blocks Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper, and stumbled to a 4-12 record that included many games were they weren't even competitive.
A summer of controversy surrounding Brown that ultimately led to his release and then back-to-back 18-point losses against Kansas City and Minnesota made it look like the same old Raiders again.
But that all changed during a 10-day trip that started with a 31-24 win at Indianapolis and ended with a game that saw the Raiders shut down Mack and beat the Bears by controlling the trenches provide hope that the team might be headed in the right direction before leaving after the season for Las Vegas.
If that continues after the bye, the Raiders will look back at the road stretch that appeared so daunting as a turning point in a positive direction.
"We've spent a lot more time together. Guys bonded off the field together," safety Erik Harris said. "I'm proud of this team for dealing with the adversity we faced on the road. We could have taken it a negative way or a positive way and everyone has taken it a positive way and bonded."
The travel doesn't stop after the bye as the Raiders must make two more long trips to Green Bay and Houston before finally returning home for a three-game homestand.
When they began this long stretch away from Oakland, it appeared as if they could have been out of contention when they got back to the Coliseum on Nov. 3 against Detroit.
Now they have a good shot at being in contention in an AFC that has few consistent winners outside of New England and Kansas City.
"We have a long way to go," Gruden said. "We're still in the middle of a long road trip. I don't know when it ends, but there's no time to get too up or too down in this business. ..."
In case you missed it during the off week, the Raiders made some moves at wide receiver.
The team re-signed WR Marcell Ateman and released J.J. Nelson. This after trading for Buffalo wideout Zay Jones heading into the bye.
Adding to the intrigue, Williams, who missed the Week 6 win over Oakland with a foot injury, was not practicing Wednesday due to the same injury. Gruden said Wiliams has plantar fasciitis and it's not getting much better.
I'll be watching for more on the plans at wideout in advance of Sunday's game in Green Bay; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ...
As noted above, Moreau has posted stat lines of 3-30-1 and 5-46-0 over the past two weeks, but ESPN's Mike Clay doesn't view him as a fantasy option yet.
With the Raiders depleted at wide receiver in London, Moreau played a season-high 63 percent of the snaps and handled a career-high five targets. Though Oakland runs a lot of two-tight-end sets (at 41 percent, they rank third in the league), Moreau entered Week 5 having run no more than 11 pass routes in a single game.
As long as starter Darren Waller is healthy, Moreau will be no more than a hold in deep dynasty leagues.
And finally. ... Offensive tackle Trent Brown has been accused of multiple acts of domestic violence against his girlfriend as part of a lawsuit filed earlier this week.
In the lawsuit, filed in Alameda County (California) Superior Court, Diorra Marzette-Sanders accuses Brown of slapping, punching and choking her on multiple occasions beginning in 2018. She said she has been "bruised, bloodied and battered" from the attacks and lived in fear of Brown.
The Raiders had no comment as of Wednesday morning.
Brown, 26, signed a four-year, $66 million contract with the Raiders during the offseason. He has started in all five of Oakland's games this season.
Based on the allegations, Brown could be subject to NFL discipline under the personal conduct policy. In an email to ESPN, an NFL spokesman said the league "will review the matter."
QBs: Derek Carr, Mike Glennon
RBs: Josh Jacobs, Jalen Richard, DeAndre Washington
WRs: Tyrell Williams, Zay Jones, Hunter Renfrow, Trevor Davis, Keelan Doss, Dwayne Harris
TEs: Darren Waller, Foster Moreau, Derek Carrier
Philadelphia EaglesCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 15 October 2019
It's Cowboys-Eagles week.
And as NFL.com's Kevin Patra noted, with the NFC East rivals both struggling, head coach Doug Pederson added some fuel to the Week 7 fire.
"I know the sky's falling outside. It's falling. I get that," Pederson said Monday on WIP Radio. "But we're going down to Dallas and our guys are going to be ready to play. And we're going to win that football game, and when we do, we're in first place in the NFC East. We control our own destiny, we're right where we need to be. Has it been perfect or beautiful or all that? No. But all we got to do is try to be 1-0 this week, beat the Dallas Cowboys, we're in first place, and listen they're reeling too. They're struggling to. They've dropped their last three games, so this will be an exciting football game."
Neither NFC East squad is playing well at the moment, with both sporting a 3-3 record.
The Eagles got manhandled by the Minnesota passing attack Sunday, falling 38-20 on the road. The Cowboys, meanwhile, have dropped three straight tilts after a comeback bid fell short against Sam Darnold's New York Jets at MetLife Stadium.
The Eagles have missed DeSean Jackson's field-stretching ability, as the offense has been wonky the past several weeks. The Philly pass defense, however, has been an Achilles' heel. Sunday the Eagles gave up 333 yards passing and four touchdowns to Kirk Cousins and the Vikings, including two 50-plus yard scores to Stefon Diggs.
Despite the struggles, especially on defense, Pederson remains confident.
"I have to be. I am," he said Monday. "I see, when I watch the tape, I put the tape on and I go, OK, there's coachable moments and there's teachable moments on the tape that we can get better at as an offense and as a defense. And I'm also optimistic that some of our injured players in the secondary will make a return this week, and we'll see. I got to stay positive, not only for myself but for the guys in the locker room."
For the Cowboys, the offense has been inconsistent the past three weeks after blasting out of the gate to open the season. Gone have been the pre-snap motions and creative play-calling we saw from Kellen Moore earlier in the campaign. Dallas' defense has also been a disappointment, unable to get big stops when needed.
With two teams desperately in need of wins, whichever defense can finally step up could give their squad an advantage in the NFC East.
It didn't take long for Pederson to slightly walk back his radio comments, insisting during his Monday news conference that he didn't guarantee a W.
"Never said that," Pederson said. "I never said that. Never said guarantee a win. Nah, I'd never do that. No."
Whether or not Pederson said the word "guarantee" is moot. The sentiment behind the quotes remains.
The public, and more importantly the Cowboys, will view them that way. Plus, Pederson doesn't regret what he said Monday morning.
"No, because it shows confidence in our football team," Pederson said. "And I promise you, Jason Garrett's going to say the same thing with his team, that they're going to win the football game as well. And I'm not going to stand up here or go on record and say we're going to go down there and try to win a game. Hopefully we can go win this one, it just doesn't show confidence, and I want to show confidence in our players. We got a ton of confidence in them, we're going to put a good week of preparation in and go play."
For the record, Carson Wentz (26-of-40, 306 yards, 2 TDs, INT) had an uneven performance.
He and the offense haven't been able to generate many big plays in the absence of Jackson, who is hoping to return from a Grade 2 abdominal strain against Dallas. Rookie running back Miles Sanders has provided the most juice in that department. He finished with three catches for 86 yards and a score.
A typically exciting Eagles offense was stifled by the stout D.
Fueled by the performances of Danielle Hunter, Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr, the defense held Philly to 20 along with 400 total yards and forced three turnovers. The top 10 pass defense forced Wentz to get flustered, forcing a slew of incomplete passes.
Sunday marked another history-making performance for Hunter who earned his sixth sack of the 2019 season (leads the team). He sets the record for the most sacks by an NFL player under 25 years old (stat became official in 1982).
According to NFL.com's Andrea Hagemann, Wentz's day wasn't all poor, though.
He showed spurts of his previous self in tosses to Alshon Jeffery, including a TD pass. Running back Jordan Howard, who has emerged as the team's next prolific back, was held to 49 rushing yards, which is a far cry from his previous outing this season. Neither the ground nor passing game could get momentum for drive down the field. Zach Ertz had 9 targets with 4 receptions.
Wentz's passes were overthrown or were tossed hastily attempting to avoid the furious Vikings' D. Sure, the Eagles are missing quite a few of its standouts due to injuries but this has been the case since the beginning of the season.
It should be interesting to see how they rebound from this loss heading into this week's prime time tilt with Dallas. ...
Meanwhile, I'll be watching for more on Jackson in coming days, although Pederson told reporters the wideout would not practice Wednesday (Jackson was slated to do some running on the side instead); watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for the latest.
Beyond that, Pederson just told reporters that veteran tackle Jason Peters was “week-to-week” with his knee injury.
The 37-year-old Peters was injured in last week’s loss to the Vikings.
That means that rookie Andre Dillard will likely slide into the starting lineup, a switch that seemed eventual when they drafted him in the first round this year. Now the question will be whether he stays in that role for good.
QBs: Carson Wentz, Nate Sudfeld, Clayton Thorson
RBs: Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders, Darren Sproles, Corey Clement
WRs: Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Jordan Matthews, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Mack Hollins, Greg Ward, DeSean Jackson
TEs: Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert
Pittsburgh SteelersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 15 October 2019
As ESPN.com's Brooke Pryor reported it, "For at least a moment, it felt like Ben Roethlisberger was on the field at Dignity Health Sports Park on Sunday night.
"At least to Maurkice Pouncey. ..."
Facing third-and-goal from the 2-yard-line in the third quarter of the Pittsburgh Steelers' 24-17 win against the Los Angeles Chargers, the veteran center had a miscue on the snap, sending the ball between the legs of quarterback Devlin Hodges.
The ball bounced dangerously away from the end zone, the potential for disaster mounting with each roll. But the rookie quarterback raced backward, taking a moment to peek around to see if he had time to pull off a save. He found that he did, picking up the ball, rolling back toward the end zone and firing a pass in the general direction of tight end Vance McDonald.
Hodges' pass went out of bounds, avoiding catastrophe and setting up for three points on the next play.
"He looked like Ben," Pouncey said. "I told him, 'I appreciate you, man.' I was up there, talking trash, and he hurried-up snapped it. I was like, 'Oh crap.' But he did a hell of a job of getting that ball and throwing it out. I honestly thought in my head, 'That's Ben.' Ben would've done the same thing. It was awesome."
In his first NFL start, Hodges helped earned his team its second win of the season by keeping his poise in situations like that one. He completed 15 of 20 attempts for 132 yards with one touchdown and one interception. For Hodges' efforts, head coach Mike Tomlin rewarded him with one of the game balls.
"We have a lot of confidence in him," Tomlin said. "We haven't been bashful about that. He has a lot of confidence in himself. I think that's what makes people gravitate to him. We're not getting over-excited. This is a guy that played good tonight, with very limited experience.
"We're thankful to get a win, and hopefully it will be a good learning experience from him and us, collectively, as we move forward."
Hodges, who came from an Air Raid system at Samford, didn't have any eye-popping downfield completions -- averaging just 5.1 air yards per attempt, according to Next Gen Stats -- but he didn't need to. The team protected him with a dominant run game and a defense that put the Steelers on the board early thanks to a strong first-quarter showing by rookie Devin Bush.
"We knew we couldn't give [Hodges] a lot of exposure to the defense," Tomlin said. "So we had to do some things in some other areas. We talked openly about it last night. Scoring on defense is significant, quality special-teams play is significant, quality running game to minimize his snap exposure. And not just him, but anybody playing at the quarterback position with a limited amount of experience."
Hodges' first drive ended quickly with a 3-and-out and a negative net gain, after his first throw, a deep ball to JuJu Smith-Schuster, fell incomplete. But he didn't have an incompletion the rest of the half, as the offense got going thanks to a boost in momentum from Bush's scoop-and-score on the Chargers' second drive and his interception to end the Chargers' third drive.
Playing with a lead the next time he stepped on the field, Hodges directed the Steelers on a seven-play, 40-yard scoring drive anchored by running back James Conner to go up 14-0.
Conner touched the ball on every play of the drive, covering two third downs and capping it off with a 12-yard touchdown run.
"Anytime the defense scores first -- anytime the defense scores when I'm on the bench -- that's big time," Hodges said. "That takes a little pressure off. As far as converting the third downs, I mean Conner. Checking down the ball to him sometimes and a couple of other third downs. We just did the game plan we had planned and just executed it."
Conner got in the end zone one more time a drive later, this time turning a short pass from Hodges into a 26-yard touchdown, shaking off a defender en route to the end zone for Hodges' first career touchdown throw.
It wasn't all good, though, for Hodges in his debut as a starter. He threw an interception in the fourth quarter that turned into seven points for the Chargers as L.A. tried to mount a fourth-quarter comeback. His two drives after that both ended in punts and went for just 30 yards.
But that's when the defense again came up with a big stop to boost the offense. Cameron Sutton intercepted Philip Rivers with less than a minute to go, sealing the win and giving the ball back to Hodges for the victory formation.
As Mason Rudolph continues to recover from the concussion sustained against the Ravens, the Steelers won't have to worry about answering the starting-quarterback question for at least another week, as the team enters its bye.
After Sunday's win, Tomlin shrugged off questions about the team's future at starting quarterback. Hodges did the same.
"I don't know," Hodges said when asked if he thought he did enough to get another start. "All I care about is the game today. We got the win, and we have a bye week next week, so we're going to enjoy the bye week."
Rudolph figures to get the job back as long as he's recovered. Still, Hodges proved himself in his first extended action. He hardly appeared rattled, perhaps shortening the leash on Rudolph if Rudolph runs into trouble when he returns.
Other notes of interest heading into the off week. ... Six weeks in and the wide receivers remain underwhelming. Part of the issue is the QB situation. Smith-Schuster, for example, had never practiced with Hodges until last week. In Pittsburgh's two wins, the pivotal plays in the passing game largely have come on short flips to Conner or Jaylen Samuels.
Smith-Schuster is on pace for 67 receptions and 906 yards receiving, well off the 111 grabs for 1,426 yards he put up with Antonio Brown in the lineup last season. The biggest issue isn't Smith-Schuster but the inability of any of the other receivers to become a problem for opponents. Pittsburgh's other five receivers have combined for 41 receptions for 416 yards.
Tight ends McDonald and Nick Vannett -- who figured to be featured prominently to help out Hodges -- each had just one catch for 5 yards. ...
And finally. ... As ESPN's Chris Mortensen first reported, defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt suffered a pectoral injury during the first half of the Steelers' Week 6 game in Los Angeles. After an MRI, it was confirmed that he tore his pectoral and will be out the remainder of the season. Tuitt had 3.5 sacks through six games for the Steelers.
Tyson Alualu will replace Tuitt. The former first-round pick has been the primary backup on the defensive line since signing with the team in 2017. He's accumulated 12 tackles and a sack, playing in all six games this season.
QBs: Mason Rudolph, Devlin Hodges, Ben Roethlisberger
RBs: James Conner, Jaylen Samuels, Benny Snell
WRs: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, Johnny Holton, Ryan Switzer, James Washington
TEs: Vance McDonald, Nick Vannett, Zach Gentry, Xavier Grimble
San Francisco 49ersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 15 October 2019
The Los Angeles Rams ran the ball on their first seven consecutive plays, marching straight through San Francisco's defense for 65 yards and a touchdown.
"That definitely hits you on a personal level," 49ers defensive tackle DeForest Buckner said. "I'm pretty sure a lot of guys took it personally."
The Niners' defense vowed to spend the rest of a memorable Sunday making up for that embarrassment. And with a fourth-down stop on the goal line several minutes later, San Francisco completely changed the direction of this NFC West rivalry.
Jimmy Garoppolo passed for 243 yards and ran for a touchdown, and San Francisco remained unbeaten with a dominant defensive performance in a 20-7 victory over the struggling Rams.
George Kittle had eight catches for 103 yards for the Niners (5-0), but their tenacious defense did most of the work. San Francisco held Los Angeles' once-unstoppable offense to 157 yards in head coach Kyle Shanahan's first victory over Rams coach Sean McVay in a game in which both California rivals were playing their starters.
These rivals are going in opposite directions after this one-sided showdown at the Coliseum. San Francisco stayed alongside New England as the NFL's only unbeaten teams, while the Rams (3-3) are on their first three-game losing streak of McVay's 2 1/2-year tenure.
After enduring two miserable seasons while the Rams reached Super Bowl heights, the Niners were eager to reassert themselves in this classic NFL rivalry.
San Francisco won a defense-dominated game by thoroughly throttling the defending NFC champions' once-impressive passing game. Jared Goff went 13 of 24 for a career-low 78 yards while failing to get comfortable behind a porous offensive line, and the Rams didn't manage a completion longer than 12 yards while going 0 for 9 on third down and 0 for 4 on fourth down.
The game was still up for grabs when the Rams reached the San Francisco 1 on third down shortly before halftime, but the Niners smothered two straight running plays up the middle.
"It sparks everybody," Garoppolo said. "Coaches, players, everybody is hollering on the sideline."
Tevin Coleman rushed for an early touchdown for San Francisco, while Garoppolo was mostly effective despite two turnovers. The Niners didn't score a touchdown in the final 27 minutes, but they're off to their fourth 5-0 start in franchise history, and their first since 1990.
The Niners' offense wasn't significantly better during a first half in which both teams turned the ball over at the opponents' 1, but San Francisco capitalized on Rams rookie Darrell Henderson's fumble on the opening snap of the second half for a short go-ahead TD drive capped by Garoppolo's sneak.
San Francisco then took control, moving the ball deliberately and thoroughly shutting down the Rams. Garoppolo's fumble was returned to the San Francisco 36 with 8:40 to play, but the Rams promptly turned it over on downs.
"After that, I had a feeling that if we just don't turn it over, we'll win this game," Shanahan said. "I haven't had that feeling very much in my career, and the defense definitely gave it to me the whole game."
Next up, the 49ers visit the Washington Redskins on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Garoppolo threw a bad interception in the red zone but was otherwise solid.
As evidenced by the interception, Garoppolo still has a habit of making a bad decision and/or throw or two per game, but he's also the guy who just led the Niners to the second five-game winning streak of his short tenure as the team's starting quarterback.
Ultimately, that's what matters most. ...
Midway through the third quarter, Coleman came wide open in the end zone for what should have been an easy touchdown. Instead, Coleman couldn't haul it in and the 49ers has to settle for a field goal. According to NFL NextGen stats, Coleman had 14.1 yards of separation on the play. That's the second-most target separation on an incompletion this season.
In the end, it didn't hurt the Niners. But in the moment, it looked like a potentially big missed opportunity. ...
After an offseason stare down, the 49ers gave kicker Robbie Gould a four-year, $19 million deal, with the first two years fully guaranteed. That contract was based on Gould's outstanding first two seasons in San Francisco. Things haven't gone nearly as well in season three.
Gould missed a 55-yard field goal attempt Sunday, which in itself isn't that big of a deal. But it was the continuation of a disturbing run in which Gould has struggled to get on track. The miss was Gould's sixth already this season, matching the most field goals he's missed in a season.
It hasn't helped that the Niners have played musical long snappers to this point -- though the pending return of Kyle Nelson (who can come back from suspension after next week's game against the Washington Redskins) should help settle things. Still, the Niners are going to find themselves in close, important games and need Gould in top form to finish them.
On the injury front. ... Deebo Samuel has a groin strain and is day to day. I'll have more on his status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
As for players working back from injury, Shanahan said OT Joe Staley's target date to return from fibula injury is Oct. 31 against Arizona with possibility of previous week against Carolina and CB Ahkello Witherspoon (foot) is out this week but would have a "better chance" the following week against the Panthers.
Nothing new on OT Mike McGlinchey (knee) and FB Kyle Juszczyk (knee), both of whom are expected to miss 4-6 weeks.
QBs: Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Mullens, C.J. Beathard
RBs: Tevin Coleman, Matt Breida, Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson
WRs: Emmanuel Sanders, Deebo Samuel, Dante Pettis, Marquise Goodwin, Richie James, Kendrick Bourne, Trent Taylor, Jalen Hurd
TEs: George Kittle, Levine Toilolo, Ross Dwelley
Seattle SeahawksCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 15 October 2019
The Seattle Seahawks' latest trip to FirstEnergy Stadium was shaping up to be as forgettable as the last one, a 6-3 defeat in 2011 with Charlie Whitehurst at quarterback.
The Seahawks fell behind 20-6 early in the second quarter Sunday and lost tight end Will Dissly to an Achilles injury.
This will feel good, though: Seattle storming back for a 32-28 victory over the Cleveland Browns thanks to three combined touchdowns from Russell Wilson and four takeaways from the defense as well as a blocked punt. The last takeaway was an interception by K.J. Wright on a Baker Mayfield pass that bounced off the hands of his intended target, ending the Browns' final drive.
The Seahawks are 5-1 for only the third time in franchise history. The last time: 2013, when they finished the regular season 13-3 and won Super Bowl XLVIII.
And, according to ESPN.com's David Purdum, for the first time this season, the favorite to win NFL MVP resides in Seattle.
Wilson moved ahead of Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes this week and is now the betting favorite to win MVP at Caesars Sportsbook
Wilson has thrown for 14 touchdowns without an interception, leading the Seahawks out to a 5-1 start. He passed for 295 yards and two touchdowns, and also ran for a touchdown in the Seahawks' road win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. He has accounted for 18 touchdowns this season.
Wilson, who has never won MVP and started the season with 20-1 odds to win the award, is now 2-1, just ahead of Mahomes at 5-2 at Caesars Sportsbook.
Mahomes, last season's MVP, also has thrown 14 touchdowns with one interception, but the Chiefs have dropped back-to-back home games to the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans.
Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson is 4-1, followed by Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey at 8-1. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is 12-1, and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is 14-1.
Oddsmakers are paying more attention to Wilson than bettors are. Wilson ranks outside the top 12 in terms of number of bets to win MVP at Caesars Sportsbook, behind Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield. Trubisky is now 1,000-1, and Mayfield is 300-1.
More money has been bet on Mahomes to win MVP than has been bet on any other player. Wilson is sixth in money.
Still, Wilson has set such a high standard while getting off to the best start of his career that his performance Sunday, as good as it was, almost seems typical by now. He completed 23 of 33 passes for 295 yards with two passing touchdowns and a rating of 117.6. He ran for 31 yards and another TD on nine carries. On one of his two TD throws to Jaron Brown, Wilson stood in the pocket and took a massive hit before delivering a pin-point ball in the end zone.
He entered Sunday with a league-best 126.3 passer rating and has been above 100 in all six of his games.
He's now at 14 passing touchdowns with no interceptions, six scores away from Peyton Manning's record for most TDs to begin a season before throwing a pick. That's MVP stuff. ...
All in all, the offense is working quite well heading into Sunday's game against the Ravens and Wilson is a big reason why. ...
On the injury front. ... As noted above, Sunday's win came with a heavy price. Dissly will miss the remainder of the season after suffering a ruptured Achilles.
"Really unfortunate that we lose Dissly, who has been a fantastic part of our team," head coach Pete Carroll said. "Just a young guy, but he's made a big impression early on all of us and we're going to miss the heck out of him as he recovers from an Achilles injury."
It's the second serious injury in as many years for Dissly, who tore his patellar tendon in Week 4 of his rookie season.
A fourth-round pick out of Washington last year, Dissly caught four touchdowns in Seattle's first five games this year to lead all NFL tight ends. His six touchdowns in his first eight career games were tied for the most by a tight end since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. He entered Sunday with 23 catches for 262 yards, having emerged as one of Wilson's go-to options in the passing game in addition to being a strong run-blocker.
With Dissly headed to injured reserve, Luke Willson and Jacob Hollister are the only true tight ends the Seahawks have on their 53-man roster. George Fant serves as a de facto tight end but started Sunday at left tackle while Duane Brown was sidelined because of a biceps injury.
Carroll said Brown and right guard D.J. Fluker, who was also out Sunday due to a hamstring injury, are both day to day. He added that if Brown can't play Sunday against Baltimore, he'd likely be back for the following week at Atlanta.
The Seahawks also have veteran tight end Ed Dickson on IR. He's not eligible to play until the game against the Falcons in Week 9, by which point he'll have missed the requisite eight games. ...
Other notes of interest. .. Somewhat quietly, running back Chris Carson has been phenomenal. Sunday marked his third straight 100-yard outing, as he turned in a terrific line of 24 carries, 124 yards and the game-winning touchdown.
So far he has 504 yards on the year, well on his way to back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons; one of the league's most-overlooked standouts, tucked away in the Pacific Northwest.
Meanwhile, as ESPN.com's Brady Henderson suggests, you can't pass definitive judgment on a draft pick less than a season-and-a half in, but the Seahawks' decision to pass on Nick Chubb in favor of Rashaad Penny with the 27th overall pick last year is not looking like a good one.
How's this for irony: Part of the reason the Seahawks went with Penny was they felt he was the more durable player and better pass-catcher than Chubb. Well, Chubb ran for 122 yard and two touchdowns on 20 carries and caught five passes for 17 yards on Sunday (he lost a fumble on one of those catches).
Penny, meanwhile, missed his third game of the season with a hamstring injury -- his fifth missed game out of a possible 22 for his career.
Watching Chubb play well with Penny on the sideline would have been a lot harder for the Seahawks to stomach had they lost. ...
Also according to Henderson, at 29 years old and in his seventh NFL season, we're probably past the point of Brown breaking out. But his performance Sunday -- three catches for 29 yards and two touchdowns -- is a reminder that he can be a productive member of Seattle's passing game.
That hasn't always seemed like a given this season with Brown disappearing for stretches. He's had an eventful few months that included being released on cut-down day, then brought back a few days later on a new contract that reduced his base salary from $2.75 million to $1 million. He earned all of that money Sunday.
Sunday was just the second multi-touchdown game of Brown's career, the other coming in Week 13 last year when he had two TDs against San Francisco.
QBs: Russell Wilson, Geno Smith
RBs: Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny, C.J. Prosise, Travis Homer
WRs: Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, Josh Gordon, David Moore, Malik Turner, John Ursua
TEs: Luke Willson, Jacob Hollister, Ed Dickson, Will Dissly
Tampa Bay BuccaneersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 15 October 2019
Seven Buccaneers caught passes from Jameis Winston on Sunday as he threw for 400 yards. Unfortunately, four Panthers also caught passes from Winston as he tossed a career-high five interceptions.
Winston likewise fumbled twice, one of them recovered by a teammate, the other by a Panther as the former No. 1 overall pick produced six turnovers and also took seven sacks in a 37-26 loss.
While Winston and the Bucs are likely in a hurry to get away from London following the game, the sentiment is a little late to the party, according to head coach Bruce Arians. When asked what he told Winston following the quarterback's second-quarter fumble, which was his second in as many plays but the only one lost, Arians shared the simple message he relayed to his quarterback.
"Throw the damn ball away," said Arians, donning a ball cap rather than his trademark Kangol hat, a grumpy scowl accompanying his words. "You avoided one, you might've avoided two. You ain't throwing it anywhere -- to a receiver. Throw it away."
Back in the States, Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield threw three interceptions in a loss to the Seahawks on Sunday to bring his season total to a league-high 11 and surpass Winston's 10. Still, those 10 picks are the most through six games for Winston, who had picks on his first and final throws of the day, in a career often criticized for his propensity of turning the ball over.
While the interceptions were abundant, Arians was plenty worried about Winston holding on too long, taking sacks and putting the ball on the ground.
"I see the preparation. I see what he's trying to do," Arians said. "The fumbles, we have to get rid of those. We have to start throwing balls away and we don't need to take those sacks. You don't take those hits, either. The interceptions, I have to go back and look at the film."
Attempting with all his might to extend plays, Winston's ill-fated heroics saw the Panthers defense offer up kryptonite seemingly more often than not.
"He has a habit of trying to be Superman and that's been a problem in the past," Arians said. "The fumbles haven't occurred this year 'til today. But again, trying to make something out of nothing. It's just a matter of knowing when to quit on a play."
Tampa Bay sits at 2-4, in the midst of a nomadic swing in which it's been away from Raymond James Stadium since Week 3 and will not return until Week 10.
Questions and concerns abound.
A bye week awaits and Arians has stressed he's sticking with Winston in the past, but just as the coach cautioned knowing when to quit on a play, the fervor will build as to when the Bucs must finally quit on the prospects of Winston being their franchise QB.
But please note: Arians never called Ryan Griffin's number Sunday. On Monday, he said it wasn't something they'll be considering during their bye week either.
"No. I look at the reasons why. What happened?" Arians said, via ESPN.com. "If it happens again, yeah, it'll concern the hell out of me."
As Profootballtalk.com suggests, Winston's history says that another game like Sunday's is likely to happen. Arians is aware of that history, but said he remains confident that Winston can clean up his game.
"I think just him playing better, the guys around him playing better, coaching better -- the whole thing," Arians said. "I think as we continue to grow together, I think it will get better and these games will be one in a million and not one every five."
The Bucs may not see Griffin, who has never taken a regular season snap, as a viable option to push Winston to the bench right now, but one would imagine a future without Winston is an increasingly likely path for the team to follow once the 2019 season is over.
Meanwhile, Godwin's not sneaking up on anyone anymore, yet he's still finding success -- finishing with 151 receiving yards -- his fourth 100-yard receiving day in the past five games. Mike Evans rebounded from last week's zero-catch performance with 96 receiving yards.
None of this matters, though, if they can't sustain drives and keep turning the ball over.
The Bucs need to bounce back quickly with road games in Tennessee and Seattle coming up after the bye. Since 1990, just 4.5 percent of teams that were below .500 midway through the season have reached the playoffs -- 16 teams total, including the Dallas Cowboys and Indianapolis Colts last year, according to ESPN Stats and Info research.
None of those teams was worse than 3-5 at the halfway point. ...
Also of interest. ... As ESPN's Mike Clay notes, Cameron Brate has found the end zone in two of his past three games, but the veteran tight end remains well off the TE1 radar.
This is the usual for Brate, as he's scored six-plus touchdowns in each of the past three seasons but simply hasn't seen enough targets when O.J. Howard has been active.
Brate has run a route on only 36 percent of Tampa Bay's pass plays this season and is averaging 2.5 targets per game. Even with the two scores, Brate is fantasy's No. 22 scoring tight end.
On the injury front. ... Jason Pierre-Paul returned to practice Tuesday, starting his 21-day window. He is eligible for promotion to the active roster at any time between now and Nov. 6.
Arians said Monday that doctors had cleared the defensive end to return. Pierre-Paul seriously injured his neck in an offseason car accident.
Pierre-Paul spent six weeks on the non-football injury list. ...
One last note here. ... According to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, the Buccaneers have released wide receiver/return man Bobo Wilson.
Wilson muffed a pair of punts in Sunday's loss to the Panthers, losing one of them (it was the non-Winston turnover, among the seven on the day).
The 24-year-old Wilson had three catches for 35 yards this season, in addition to his return duties.
QBs: Jameis Winston, Ryan Griffin, Blaine Gabbert
RBs: Ronald Jones, Peyton Barber, Dare Ogunbowale, T.J. Logan
WRs: Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, Breshad Perriman, Justin Watson, Scott Miller, Bobo Wilson
TEs: O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate, Antony Auclair, Tanner Hudson
Tennessee TitansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 15 October 2019
With the offense scoreless and a single-digit quarterback rating through two-plus lifeless quarters, Marcus Mariota was benched on Sunday in favor of Ryan Tannehill.
Trailing 13-0 against the Broncos, the Titans replaced Mariota in the third quarter after a woeful start that saw him complete just seven passes in 18 attempts with 63 yards, two interceptions and a frightful 9.5 rating to show for it.
Mariota's 38.9 percent completion percentage against Denver was his second lowest, better only than a 30 percent performance in a Week 14 win over the Broncos in 2016.
In the fifth and final season of his rookie contract since he was drafted No. 2 overall in 2015, Mariota struggled the week prior in a loss to Buffalo, completing less than 60 percent of his passes with no touchdowns.
Sunday was on track to be Mariota's third game this season without a touchdown pass, though it saw him throw his first two interceptions of the season.
Tannehill, a former first-rounder for the Dolphins in 2012, came over to the Titans via offseason trade and looked good in the preseason. Coming on in relief, Tannehill turned in his first significant playing time after a brief appearance in Week 1 during Tennessee's blowout win over the Browns.
But there will be more Tannehill going forward.
Tannehill will start Sunday's game against the Los Angeles Chargers instead of former No. 2 overall pick Mariota, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero reported Tuesday night.
The decision by Mike Vrabel to roll with Tannehill over Mariota, once viewed as the franchise's answer under center, doesn't come as a huge surprise for those who watched the Titans' offense sputter these past two weeks.
The Titans have plateaued under Mariota, who has yet to live up to his early career promise. It seems hard-pressed to imagine the Titans opting to keep Mariota (currently on the final year of his rookie deal) beyond this season. Mariota likely will have to resurrect his career with a new team in a new city following next March's free agency.
Tannehill provided a slight spark for the Titans when he came in for Mariota. He succeeded in advancing the ball past midfield and threw for 144 yards. But he shared Mariota's propensity for sacks with four of his own and threw a red-zone interception.
The Dolphins traded Tannehill to the Titans this past offseason as Tennessee sought a capable backup for Mariota.
Now they need more.
Per ESPN.com's Turron Davenport, here are three areas where Mariota and the offense have struggled the past two weeks:
Turnovers: After throwing a career high 15 interceptions in 2017, Mariota had gotten better at avoiding picks -- he had eight in 2018 and none through the first four weeks of 2019, when he had seven touchdowns. Avoiding turnovers led to more efficiency on offense to start the season. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for Mariota's play against the Broncos.
Mariota's streak of 156 consecutive passes without an interception was broken in the second quarter when Broncos cornerback Chris Harris intercepted him.
Red zone woes: Against the Bills, the Titans' offense produced seven points despite making three trips into the red zone. Two red zone touchdowns were taken away because of penalties. One of the penalties came when Mariota threw the ball across his body to A.J. Brown after stepping past the line of scrimmage.
Against the Broncos, Tennessee didn't venture into the red zone until the fourth quarter. The Titans failed to score despite getting the ball inside the 20-yard line twice with Tannehill under center. Through six weeks, the Titans have averaged 2.5 red zone trips a game. Only 1.3 of those trips are resulting in touchdowns. Both averages are lower than the 1.6 touchdowns Tennessee averaged on 2.9 red zone visits last season.
Indecisiveness: After Sunday's game, Mariota said he told Tannehill to trust what he sees. But Mariota hadn't been following his own advice. Indecisiveness has been a significant handicap to Mariota's success.
The Titans have allowed an NFL-high 25 sacks, including of 12 over the last two weeks. But according to NFL Next Gen Stats, Tennessee's offensive linemen have actually been pass-blocking well, sustaining their blocks for at least 2.5 seconds 62 percent of the time this season -- good for fifth best in the NFL per ESPN's Pass Block Win Rate.
Part of the problem was Mariota averaging 2.84 seconds before throwing passes, the ninth-longest average time in the NFL. And when the Titans' offensive line doesn't give up a pass block win (rusher beating a block within 2.5 seconds), Mariota's Total QBR of 42.8 ranks 29th out of 30 qualified quarterbacks. Only Dolphins quarterback Josh Rosen had a worse rating.
The Titans have scored just 98 points despite a heavy investment this offseason in signing left guard Rodger Saffold and receiver Adam Humphries and drafting new starting right guard Nate Davis and Brown. Only Washington (90) and winless Cincinnati (97) and Miami (42) have scored fewer points through at least five games. They also have allowed an NFL-worst 29 sacks.
Tennessee lost by two points in Week 2 to the Colts with the defense giving the Titans a chance to win each of the past two games if only the offense could find the end zone. The Titans also were held to a season-low 204 yards in Denver.
"It's just a lot of self-inflicted wounds," receiver Corey Davis said. "Guys just being out of character and not being us. We got a lot of talent no doubt. No reason we shouldn't put up a lot more points than we been showing."
The Titans have hopes of getting to .500, hosting a pair of 2-4 teams starting with the Chargers, then Tampa Bay. After that, seven games are against teams currently with winning records, including Kansas City, New Orleans and a pair against AFC South leader Houston.
Tannehill will face a significant test when the Chargers bring their fifth-ranked pass defense to Nashville and expecting a huge offensive turnaround seems like a reach...
Worth noting. ... Dion Lewis, who signed a four-year deal in March 2018, had only one carry and lost a yard. Dalyn Dawkins, newly promoted from the practice squad, got two carries and subbed in ahead of Lewis.
On the injury front. ... Vrabel didn't have an update on starting inside linebacker Jayon Brown, who hurt a groin muscle early in Denver and didn't return. The Titans played without outside linebacker Cameron Wake (hamstring) for a second straight game, and linebacker Sharif Finch (left shoulder) has missed all but two snaps of the past two games.
And finally. ... Titans 2019 first-round draft pick Jeffery Simmons will begin practicing this week.
There is no word on when the All-American defensive tackle out of Mississippi State will make his official debut but getting his first on-field work is obviously a big deal. A knee injury sustained during pre-draft training sidelined Simmons throughout the offseason and earned him a spot on the non-football injury (NFI) list for the duration of training camp and the regular season to date.
QBs: Ryan Tannehill, Marcus Mariota
RBs: Derrick Henry, Dion Lewis, Dalyn Dawkins, David Fluellen
WRs: Corey Davis, A.J. Brown, Adam Humphries, Tajae Sharpe, Darius Jennings, Kalif Raymond
TEs: Jonnu Smith, Delanie Walker, MyCole Pruitt, Anthony Firkser
Washington RedskinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 15 October 2019
As ESPN.com's John Keim noted, Adrian Peterson's frustration over the run game -- or the lack of one -- was mounting. Finally, Peterson could exhale, smile and enjoy what had just transpired. It wasn't a declaration that their run game was back; it was, they hope, a start.
Not only did the Redskins win for the first time, but Peterson cracked the 100-yard mark for the 55th time. A 17-16 win against the Miami Dolphins (0-5) doesn't signal a turnaround for the Redskins, but their 145 yards rushing -- 118 by Peterson -- at least provides optimism.
In order for the Redskins to do more than beat a bad team, they must continue to run the ball well. It will be a lot harder with games against San Francisco, Minnesota and Buffalo over the next three weeks.
"We want to build off it," interim coach Bill Callahan said.
"We got to get better as we go on," left guard Ereck Flowers said. "We're going to play some good defenses. You want to be able to do this on good defenses."
To establish a consistent ground game, they know they must first establish the proper mindset.
"I really thought we ran the ball well," Callahan said. "Through three quarters, I thought we pounded it well ... We came into the game thinking rush attempts. We wanted to have more attempts. We weren't really concerned about the yardage but the attempts was really, really important."
They had a season-high 33 rush attempts out of 58 plays. Having a lead all game helped immensely. In truth, plenty of work remains. Miami, after all, entered the game having allowed 175.8 rushing yards per game. And in the Redskins' first three series, they managed 4 yards rushing on three Peterson runs.
However, because the defense shut down Miami's offense, Washington could stay committed.
It also led to big pass plays. It should have led to more and that's one reason they've struggled to stay with the run; Sunday, they were 2 of 11 on third down. Quarterback Case Keenum missed on some throws and had another long one -- that came off a run fake -- dropped. Against good teams, missing opportunities limits possessions and leads to double-digit deficits.
The Redskins also couldn't close out the game on the ground: After taking a 17-3 lead late in the third quarter, their backs ran the ball eight more times for 27 yards and managed one first down on the ground. Still, it beat the alternative.
"It felt good to get out there and get into a groove," Peterson said. "I left some out there, but we all needed this, to get our bodies conditioned to running the ball throughout the game."
In the first five games, no back carried the ball more than 12 times. Falling behind by double digits often prevented the Redskins from sticking to the run. But Callahan, who replaced the fired Jay Gruden on Monday, stressed his desire to find an offensive identity. And he wanted it from the run game.
On the Redskins' fourth series, Peterson rushed for 60 yards. Then, after seven runs got them to the Miami 25-yard line, the run threat led to a touchdown. On second-and-7, the Dolphins stacked the box with eight defenders against Washington's two-tight-end look. A run fake, max protection and receiver Terry McLaurin's route running led to a touchdown pass.
Later in the game, on second-and-10 from their own 1-yard line, using another two-tight-end look, McLaurin caught a 32-yard pass on an out pattern.
"You saw some of the play-action hits late in the game," Keenum said. "That opens up a whole new ballgame when they have to bring that many people up in the box. So I'm excited to get that part of the offense going."
Or, as Callahan said, "There were some wide-open routes that complemented what we were doing in the running game."
Entering the game, according to Next Gen Stats, the Redskins had used multiple tight ends on 39 of their 307 plays. Sunday, they used that look on 21 of 58 snaps.
"We want to bring physicality," Flowers said. "That's pretty much the mindset, putting your head down and just working ... It was great; everyone enjoys it. This was a positive step."
On Thursday, Peterson, clearly frustrated under Gruden, said of the emphasis on the run: "I'm hyped about it. It's [been] totally opposite from what we did last year when we were able to be more successful as a team. Obviously something isn't working so there needs to be some sort of change."
Sunday, he liked that they could use the same run play multiple times, giving him a chance to use knowledge based on earlier attempts. He heeded the words of his former running backs coach in Minnesota, Eric Bieniemy: "famine, famine, feast" -- be patient and the big runs will come.
That happened Sunday. Finally.
"You definitely get into the groove," Peterson said, "as far as the possibilities of what could happen. ... That's what we want to be about."
Of course, when the Redskins needed a big play in seeking their first win, they kept looking for one target: McLaurin. And from their own 1-yard line late in the game, they found the guy they trust the most. McLaurin's 32-yard catch gave Washington breathing room when it needed a lot.
And McLaurin kept coming up big. He ran a perfect route to score on a 25-yard catch in the second quarter; he added a 33-yard touchdown pass. McLaurin finished with four catches for 100 yards, his second triple-digit-yardage game. With his excellent route-running and speed he could have had one or two more already.
Regardless, he leads rookie receivers with five touchdown catches and has 408 yards receiving in five games. McLaurin did have one drop, but he's the top bright spot in a dismal Washington season. By far.
Keenum is who we thought he was. The veteran quarterback was 13 of 25 for 166 yards and two touchdown passes to McLaurin.
Callahan said Keenum will get the nod against the 49ers this weekend, further delaying first-round pick Dwayne Haskins from making his first NFL start.
Keenum said he was "two-faced" in the Dolphins game and will need to be much better for the Redskins to have any shot against San Francisco.
"I've got to be better for this football team moving forward," Keenum said. "I've got to get the ball to (receivers) in key situations and not make it as interesting as it was."
Keenum completed the three passes he truly needed to, all to McLaurin.
But he wasn't always sharp in his first game back as the starter after missing one week with a sprained right foot. Keenum was off-target on a handful of other throws, notably to Chris Thompson that should have resulted in another touchdown. There were others as well; some were incompletions and others resulted in fewer yards after the catch.
But a big key for Keenum was not turning the ball over. He threw only 25 passes, and if the Redskins want to have improved play in the final 11 weeks, the passing game will have to be sharper.
On the injury front. ... Tuesday, the Redskins worked out free agent running back Josh Ferguson. The news comes as Thompson is dealing with a mild case of turf toe that leaves his availability this week in some doubt.
The Redskins are depleted at tight end without Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis because of concussions, and Jerome Cunningham injured his right leg at Miami. A team that likes using two tight end sets is down to Jeremy Sprinkle and little-known Hale Hentges as healthy options.
Washington announced it signed fullback Michael Burton on Tuesday. Burton, 27, has played for the Lions and Bears, playing 55 games with 11 starts since Detroit drafted him in the fifth round in 2015.
Washington placed Cunningham on injured reserve with a knee injury in a corresponding move.
Stay tuned. More on Thompson and Davis (Reed was placed on IR last week) via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
Finally. ... Callahan says Derrius Guice could return to practice next week but there are no definite plans yet.
Bryce Love is still rehabbing and will need more time.
QBs: Dwayne Haskins, Case Keenum, Colt McCoy
RBs: Adrian Peterson, Derrius Guice, Wendell Smallwood, Chris Thompson, Craig Reynolds, Shaun Wilson, Bryce Love
WRs: Terry McLaurin, Paul Richardson, Trey Quinn, Jehu Chesson, Kelvin Harmon, Cam Sims
TEs: Vernon Davis, Jeremy Sprinkle, Hale Hentges, Jordan Reed